7 practical ways to beat the winter blues

As the nights draw in, it’s normal to want to spend more time indoors where it’s warm. However, if it affects your mood and motivation, you could be suffering from the winter blues. Luckily, there are often steps you can take to overcome it. 

The NHS estimates that around 2 million people in the UK are affected by the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Lethargy
  • Overeating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling down and unsociable.

According to the NHS, the cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it’s thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months. This may affect the production of certain hormones that play a role in your tiredness, mood, and body’s internal clock. 

If you’re feeling down this winter, here are seven practical ways you could boost your mood. 

1. Keep your home warm

Being in a cold environment can make you feel more depressed and miserable. It might affect your sleep and mean you don’t take joy in the things you normally do. 

It’s recommended that you try to keep your home between 18C and 21C throughout winter to stave off the blues. As well as putting your central heating on, hot drinks, hearty meals, and cosy clothing might make you feel more comfortable as the temperature drops. 

2. Don’t reach for the junk food

When it’s cold, you might not be in the mood to eat healthily – comforting junk food that’s high in carbohydrates, like pasta and potatoes, can seem far more tempting. 

However, making an effort to balance cravings with fresh fruit and vegetables could leave you feeling much better overall. Having your favourite fruit on hand when you fancy a snack and ensuring your main meal always has a healthy portion of fresh vegetables could help your body get the vitamins it needs.

3. Make time for your family and friends

When the mercury falls, you might want to shut yourself away at home. Yet, socialising is good for your mental health and could help you ward off the winter blues.

As much as you might be looking forward to settling on the sofa with a gripping TV show, accept invitations and make plans to catch up with loved ones too. Often, once you’re out you’ll feel more enthusiastic about the plans and glad you made the effort – even if you had to pause the box set on a cliffhanger. 

4. Take up a new hobby

Some people struggle in the winter months because they can’t carry on with their summer routine. If that sounds like you, try taking up a new hobby to keep yourself occupied. It might give you something to look forward to and add structure to dark evenings. 

If you thrive on social activities, try joining a club to meet new people. It could be just what you need to enjoy winter. 

5. Make the most out of the daylight and get outdoors

The NHS recommends getting outdoors for a one-hour walk in the middle of the day if you can. 

It’s also a simple way to keep active. Exercising can boost your production of endorphins, also known as the “feel good hormone”, so regular walks could help you feel refreshed and in a far better mood. 

6. Use a light box

While the exact causes of SAD aren’t known, some people find that light therapy eases the winter blues. 

Light boxes are around 10 times brighter than ordinary home or office lighting. It’s thought this type of light may cause a chemical change in your brain that lifts your mood and reduces symptoms like sleeping more than usual. A dawn simulator, which mimics the sunrise to gradually wake you up, could also be useful. 

You can purchase a light box from a range of retailers, and online. Usually, the recommended intensity of light is 10,000 lux, and you may want to consider an option that filters out most or all UV light. 

7. Seek medical help if you’re struggling

SAD is a recognised type of depression, and there is help available if you’re struggling with the associated symptoms – don’t put off seeking support. 

You can contact your GP. They will usually ask you about your mental health and lifestyle, including seasonal changes. There are often treatments available that you can try that may alleviate the symptoms.

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