Winter can make you SAD


It’s officially winter. How does that make you feel? Some people love the long, dark nights and the cold wintery weather where they get the opportunity to snuggle in comfy fleeces and warm up in front of a log burner. Whereas others can’t think of anything worse and long for the spring to hurry up. Whatever your opinion is, winter is here for a good few months, there’s not much we can do about that!

Unfortunately, the dark months can really have a detrimental effect on some people’s mental health and they actually dread the changing seasons. Did you know that there is a medical reason why some people get really low in the winter? It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition affects 2 million people in the UK and 12 million across Northern Europe. Living far from the Equator seems to have an effect, possibly due to the decrease in sunlight during the winter months.

More females than men suffer from SAD; younger women are more likely to have it than older women - especially if there’s a family history.

SAD is a type of depression which can make you feel lethargic and want to sleep longer, make you want to over-eat - especially carbs - hence weight gain. You may feel irritable and can’t be bothered to socialise with friends or family.

The reason that some people suffer from SAD is thought to be because of a decrease in the level of sunlight which can disrupt your body’s internal clock, causing depression. There is also a decrease in serotonin levels which is a brain chemical which affects our mood and also a disruption in melatonin levels which affects our sleep pattern and moods.


So, what can we do?

  • Keep active, this will help to boost your levels of the disrupted chemicals and make you feel happier. Try to get out for a walk in the middle of the day to get some sunlight, even if it’s cloudy. This will also help you to stay on track for succeeding with your New Year resolutions!
  • Keep warm – this helps to prevent illness and depression especially if you’re vulnerable; over 65, have long-term health problems, disabled or are on low income and can’t afford heating bills (see tips for keeping warm a little further down).
  • Take up a hobby to help you to concentrate and focus on something you enjoy.
  • Socialise, see your family and friends, it will do you good!
  • Join a support group; SADA is the only registered charity for SAD.
  • See a GP if your symptoms are so bad that they affect your life.
  • Use a Light Box; Light therapy is effective for 85% of SAD sufferers. It may mean that you have to sit in front of a light box for two hours a day. It’s not available on the NHS and can cost around £100.


Tips to stay warm this winter

  • Wear layers of clothes, tights under trousers, T-shirts and vests under jumpers - the more layers the better to help trap the warm air.
  • Heat is lost through the head so get yourself a woolly hat and some gloves.
  • Heat is also lost through the fingers and toes. Until recently I had a phobia about… slippers!! I couldn’t stand them, the fact that they’re called ‘slippers’ indicates that they are here to cause us mortal harm, but the older I’ve got the more I have managed to reduce my fear and I am now the owner of the warmest, fluffiest slippers ever and I love them! Keep your feet warm and the rest of the body follows.
  • Try to stay in one room. Keep the doors shut, use draught excluders, close the curtains as soon as it starts to get dark, get some comfy throws and snuggle up with the family/cat/dog/goldfish. Or, have an early night and get under the duvets, I’m sure there are ways you can warm up… Hot water bottle and electric blankets will do if your lucks not in!
  • Heating should be at least 18 degrees, less if you’re not in a vulnerable group and are comfortable.
  • Eat hot food and have regular hot drinks to warm yourselves from the core. As the adverts say; porridge is a great way to warm yourselves up in the morning - central heating for kids (and adults!).
  • Keep active; do the housework, play with the kids, anything that heats the body up through movement.
  • Remember to look after elderly relatives or neighbours. Make sure they are warm, have food and any medication they need. If you’re worried about them contact the council or AgeUK on 0800 009966.
  • Make sure that you are getting the best deal on energy bills, do some comparisons or have a look at the Money Saving Expert website for advice.
  • Visualise being in a warm place, laying on the beach with the sun shining down on you, you can really ‘think’ yourself warm. Try it - it works!

It will soon be gone people, we can dream about spring - when everything starts to bloom again, the days are longer and it’s no longer cold... And then, we can moan about it being too hot!!!

- Juanita

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