It’s no surprise that the change in season impacts our mood and energy. They are not called the ‘winter blues’ for nothing.
However, for 1 in 3 people in the UK, the onset of winter triggers SAD, a recognised mental health disorder.
Learn how to recognise the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and how to combat it naturally.
As daylight recedes, and the dark nights draw in, it feels like winter is truly upon us. For many of the animal kingdom a period of hibernation has already begun. Although every bone in our body may want to embark on our own hibernation and take an extended duvet day right through to Spring, modern life dictates that we must continue to function through the bleak winter months. But what impact does this have on our mental health?
Our ancestors lived a life according to the laws of nature, eating locally and seasonally, rising and resting according to the movement of the sun.
However, we have lost our connection to these key principles, overriding our innate instincts, utilising technology to bypass what we perceive as inconvenient restrictions to modern life.
Electricity has enabled us to disconnect from this rhythm of nature. We ignore the cues of the winter season, which encourages us to rest and recalibrate, conserving our energy as wildlife animals do.
Instead we continue on the treadmill of life, rising in darkness and staying awake long past sunset.
There is no denying that lack of daylight affects our psyche. It is no coincidence that Iceland and Denmark, with their extended hours of darkness have the highest consumption of in anti-depressants, illustrating the importance of a daily dose of Vitamin D.
As a result, some of us may feel a shift in our mood at this time. Symptoms of SAD occur every winter and dissipate in Spring. It is believed to be more prevalent in women.
Signs you may have SAD:
lack of energy
increase in sleep
change in appetite & carbohydrate cravings
How to prevent SAD naturally
Maximise your time spent in natural daylight. Go for a walk outside on your lunch break. Open blinds and curtains to invite light into your home. Change your lightbulbs to those which stimulate natural light.
If your symptoms are more severe you may wish to consider light therapy or phototherapy. This is said to improve symptoms by 50-80%. Portable lightboxes which mimic natural light, can be purchased from around £50, and should be used daily for optimal results.
Supplement with Vitamin D. Researchers believe that an increase of vitamin D is crucial to enhancing mood for SAD sufferers. Vitamin D is only produced in our skin after exposure to sunlight. The levels of sunshine in the UK are not adequate to maintain healthy level. The RDA for Vitamin D is 10-20mg.
The drop in temperature may make a spin class far less attractive than a glass of wine in the pub, but it is important to keep active during Winter. Even moderate daily exercise can boost feel good chemicals in the brain.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve depression including SAD. Starting your day with with just 10 minutes of mindfulness could help improve your mood and wellbeing for the rest of the day. Find a local mediation group to discover the basics or use a guided meditation app or tutorial on YouTube.
Amy Huggins is a nutritional therapist and fertility specialist. After being diagnosed as infertile, she used nutrition and naturopathic techniques to heal her body and reverse her diagnosis, giving birth to her first child in 2017. Amy now helps women achieve their dream of motherhood with nutritional and lifestyle coaching. You can find out more about Amy and her work over on her website www.amyhuggins.com or instagram, twitter or facebook