Ready to commit to your wellbeing? Welcome to The Well, your go-to destination for all the inspiration you need to live the best version of yourself through evidence-based health tips from health professionals. In partnership with private health insurer, HBF, we’re helping you tap into a few things you could be doing right now to get the most out of 2023 and beyond.
After the pure joy that is long summer days and balmy nights, winter can be a real downer. Some of us thrive on cosy vibes, oversized jumpers and hot chocolate, but for others, there is simply no hot toddy warm enough to chase away those winter blues.
Even if you experience an annual slump as the sun fades, the good news is that seasonal depression isn’t an inevitable fate. There are plenty of ways to prepare your mind and body for this seasonal shift and keep your spirits in check until spring.
What exactly is seasonal depression, you ask? Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s a type of depression that’s related to the changes in seasons, typically occurring during the winter months when there’s less natural sunlight.
The going theory is that lack of sunlight can disrupt your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) and cause feelings of sadness, fatigue, and decreased energy levels. Alongside the lack of sunlight, environmental, social, and other bodily factors likely all play a role in SAD, changing your emotional and hormonal balance until the weather warms up again.
Don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to combat SAD and get through the winter solstice. Read on for some top tips to guard yourself against the icy grasp of seasonal depression.
Make An Effort To Get Outside
Don’t have a handy light box to use at home? Fortunately, we live in sunny Australia, which means that even on the bleakest of days there is still usually some sunlight to be had. Even though it may be cold and grey, try to get outside and soak up natural light when you can. Whether it’s for a walk, a picnic in the park, or just a coffee catch-up with a friend, getting out into nature can do wonders for your mood.
Up Your Vitamin D Intake
Arguably one of the best things about our sun is that it delivers quality vitamin D directly into our bodies. A reason for your low mood could be as simple as a seasonal vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight. Have a chat with your doctor or local pharmacist to check if your Vitamin D levels are low and the ways they can help to give you a boost throughout the darker seasons. Head over here to learn more about the relationship between sunlight and your Vitamin D levels.
Make Sure To Move Your Body
There’s a reason why exercise is so often touted as a fix-all for all manner of mental and physical maladies. While perking up is more complicated than just throwing around some weights, there’s no denying that regular exercise has been proven to boost your mood and energy levels.
The big issue here is that when you’re low in energy, sad, and feeling a little hopeless, jumping up and moving your body is just about the hardest thing to do. If you can build up a regular exercise routine during the warmer months, those habits can be much easier to maintain throughout autumn and winter. Whether it’s a daily walk or a weekly yoga class, set the habit now so that you’re more likely to keep it up until spring.
Make Time For A Mindfulness Practice
We've all heard that practising mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety all year round. This practice is especially important to keep up during periods when your mental health is particularly vulnerable. It allows you to check in with yourself and acknowledge the changes you’re experiencing rather than just reacting to them as they come. Whether it’s through meditation, deep breathing, or yoga, finding a form of mindfulness that works for you can be a game-changer. Head over here to find out more about how meditation might help you.
Prioritise Nourishing Yourself
Food is medicine. We’re not saying you need to obsess about your diet during the winter months as that can introduce an entirely new level of stress. The best thing is to simply nourish yourself. Choose foods that make you feel good physically and mentally, indulge in winter-warming meals laden with melted cheese on occasion, and keep that veggie intake up to enjoy the positive impact a balanced diet can have on your mood and energy levels.
Connect With Others
For many of us, our social calendars are uncharacteristically blank from May to August. Loneliness and isolation are no joke and could be playing a significant role in your seasonal depression. Schedule catch-ups, family dinners, and events wherever possible so that you feel connected and supported on even the coldest, darkest days. Winter cultural events are a great place to start, curated with the intention of bringing light, colour and connection to our lives, they've already done some of the heavy lifting. Call your mates and get out to see the likes of VIVID, international film festivals and artisan markets, Dark Mofo, Rising Festival or Lightscape Perth that all come to life during the cooler months in your region.
Seek Professional Help
While we love a good DIY route, there are some things you simply cannot overcome by yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional. They can offer advice, support, therapy, medication, and anything else you need to reach the golden glow of spring.
With a little bit of prep and by staying in touch with your mind and body, you can potentially give seasonal depression the boot this winter. Just remember to take care of yourself, connect with others, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Stay positive, stay healthy, and we’ll see you on the other side!
Seeing a psychologist for the first time? Head over here to find out what to expect.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.
Image credit: Urban List