The clocks went back last weekend and the darker evenings have just begun - this can be a tricky transition for many of us.
The shift in the day means that we’re less likely to be spending time in daylight, and natural light is so important for our brain chemistry – particularly with regulating sleep and lifting our mood – which is why winter can be such a challenging time. Added to that, psychologically the hour change can be hard as it heralds the onset of winter, which can feel dark and miserable.
If you suffer from depression, and particularly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the transition can be very tough, so we’ve put together a few tips to help make this time of year more manageable.
Go easy on yourself
You can build in resilience to help with any challenging time or change by ensuring that you build a bit of ‘slack’ into your life. That means making sure you take some time out to rest and trying not to schedule other stressful events.
If you struggle with the hour change, this should be no exception. So, plan a relaxing weekend and allow some time to adjust in the weeks that follow.
Plan to get out in natural light when you can
With shorter days, getting out in the light may take a bit of planning – particularly if you are at work indoors during the day. Set aside time for a lunchtime walk, or a walk in the morning on your way to work.
You could also plan to make the most of the days you can get outside, so go for a long walk at the weekend, visit a local park or gardens. If you’re really struggling to get outside, just five minutes can help - Is there a job that needs doing each day that will force you outside: like popping to the corner shop to get some milk or taking the rubbish out? See if you can just achieve that one thing.
Enjoy some winter vegetables in a hearty soup or casserole. Ensure that you get plenty of protein, good fats (Omegas 3, 6 and 9), slow release carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals (B vitamins and Zinc are key for your brain).
This gives your body the best chance of fighting infection and helps keep your brain healthy.
The Danish art of Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is about creating a warm atmosphere or cosiness through experiences.
Essentially, it’s about embracing the long winter nights by engaging in activities such as reading, curling up by the fire and spending quality time with others. Invite some friends round for a film night, whip up your favourite hot drink, or spend some time reading that book you’ve been meaning to read.
Get help if you need it
If you’re really struggling, consider visiting your GP. If the problem is persistent they may prescribe medication or light therapy. You can purchase a light box, which generates light levels similar to a sunny day. Spending an hour in front on your light box a day (preferably in the morning) will help give your brain the light it needs and may help you feel better.
I hope these tips help you to adjust to the winter months, and that you find the “Hygge” moments in the cold evenings.
Make the cold cozy, make the dark light and be kind to yourself.