Balancing out the winter blues

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A guide for seasonal mood difficulties.

By Neil Micklewood.

If you are prone to low moods in winter, it’s really important to plan in advance to manage this. Light restriction, cold temperatures, decreased activity and a change in eating habits can negatively affect mood, and can lead to a type of clinical depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).

Clinical depression involves a consistently depressed mood, or loss of interest and enjoyment in life activities along with negative thoughts, and often sleep, appetite, and concentration difficulties.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to manage S.A.D. Try out these tips to see if they can help you beat the winter blues.

  1. Have fun and reward yourself. Life gets busy, but if you have difficulties with mood symptoms, it is really important to do enjoyable things on a regular basis.
    Little things like listening to your favourite music, having a lunch date or going to a movie are all helpful in keeping your life balanced. If you can, take a holiday somewhere sunny.
  2. Get as much light as possible during the day. Go outdoors when you can, even if the weather is overcast. Try to work near windows when you are indoors.
    Light therapy can also help and, interestingly, your gadgets are a source of the right spectrum of light that your body needs (avoid using them at night though, or have a blue light filter activated).
  3. Identify and manage unhelpful thinking patterns using psychological strategies such as balanced thinking exercises (see “Back from the bluez” on how to do).
  4. Alongside a diet rich in omega fatty acids, tryptophan, melatonin and vitamin D (fish, poultry, avocados, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, cheese), products like St John’s wort and ashwagandha may also have a positive impact on your mood.
    Avoid relying on carbs and caffeine to boost your mood – they are a temporary high that come at a cost of a crashing low.
  5. Go zen. Mindfulness is clinically proven to reduce stress and boost mood. It doesn’t have to involve formal meditation – have a look at for short and simple mindfulness exercises.
  6. Get moving and do it often! Whether it’s a gentle walk or a hardcore gym workout, do it regularly (four or more times per week) and for long enough that your body can burn off stress hormones and boost happy hormones (around 30 minutes).
If these strategies are not helping or your symptoms are lasting longer than two weeks, contact a psychologist or your health professional to get further support. Depression responds well to treatment and the sooner you seek treatment, the faster you will see results.


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