By Natalie Wilson
As the colder temperatures set in and we lose daylight hours, it isn’t surprising that so many of us find ourselves feel lower in mood than usual. The change of seasons can have a huge impact on our mental health, which leave many of us feeling the winter blues. During the winter months, Google searches about mental illness follow the seasonal patterns, due to many more people searching for this information over the winter.
Winter weather can also make coping with year-round mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, much more difficult to live with. For some people, this change can have a huge impact on energy levels and mood, leading to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with around 2 million people in the UK being affected by SAD during the winter months.
If you find that your mental health takes a hit during the winter, then following your usual self-care steps can significantly help, but here are 4 ways that you can look after your mental health during the winter.
Make The Most Of Natural Light
Many GPs see an increase in mental health consultations during the winter months, with a large proportion of these believed to be down to SAD. To help improve the feelings and symptoms of the winter blue, try to get outdoors and into natural light as much as possible, particularly during midday.
Sit near windows wherever possible and try to naturally brighten up your environment. There are a few ways you can try to get outside more, whether it be by going for a walk, tidying up the garden or even just heading to the shops.
Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels
It’s a good idea to avoid foods which can cause a spike and then a drastic drop in your blood sugar levels, as this can make you feel more irritated and alter your mood. Reducing the amount of processed foods you eat, such as white rice and pasta, and foods containing refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol will help with your general mood.
Increasing your intake of fibre and protein will also have a positive effect on creating more balanced blood sugar levels, as well as ensuring you are not lacking in vitamins and minerals will make you feel much healthier.
Increase Your Intake Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a huge role when it comes to keeping your muscles and bones healthy, but many researchers have found that low levels of Vitamin D could also contribute to a dip in mood and could contribute to mood disorders, such as SAD and depression.
Vitamin D is largely created by a reaction in our skin to sunlight. However, during the winter, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation in order to make vitamin D, so we need to rely on getting our intake from food, such as oily fish, egg yolks and cereals, but if you feel like you are lacking, then you may need additional supplements.
Get Plenty Of Rest
You might not feel like you need it, but many people who suffer from SAD and winter-affected depression and anxiety are actually extremely fatigued. Thanks to the darker mornings and evenings, our sleep patterns get disrupted and can affect our overall mood and motivation. A lack of sleep can often lead to an increase in illnesses, which then makes it even harder to find the drive to do what you need to. In order to get the energy you need, then it is recommended that you get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer with a particular focus on sustainability and eco-friendly living. Whether you’re looking for a new meditation method or some facts on sustainable garden furniture, she’s your girl! When not writing, Natalie can be found heading to the gym or walking her dog. You can connect with her on Twitter @NatWilson976.