Now that the clocks have officially changed, the words of Jon Snow are finally ringing true. Yes, winter IS coming and the chap does know something after all. Game of Thrones references over, days are getting shorter, nights longer and there’s an inkling of Siberian chill in the air. Hats, scarves and gloves are emerging from their summer hiding places and audacious Christmas adverts are creeping onto our television screens (hold your hats, the John Lewis Christmas ad is due out next week). Basically, as soon as the fireworks are over tonight, we’re all entitled to break into advent song whenever the mood takes us.
The clocks changing in winter is always a double-edged sword: “Aha!” to the extra hour of glorious sleep! But “oh” to that rather dark and ominous first Monday morning. That first commute to and from work after this annual time shift always seems strangely significant – suddenly winter is not just a concept but a tangible experience that is literally ON YOU.
While the change in season is welcomed with open arms by the chestnut and sleet-lovers amongst us, for others it can be a very real point of concern. In the UK, about 3% of the population are estimated to suffer acutely from ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) – a debilitating illness which prevents those affected from functioning normally without appropriate treatment. Brought on by the lack of sunlight, it can cause serious problems for eating, sleeping and mental wellbeing. The NHS has guidelines for anyone who feels they may be suffering from this medical condition.
Around 20% of people in the UK experience mildly debilitating symptoms of SAD
Interestingly enough, the latest research from the British Medical Association suggests that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a spectrum – with around 20% of people in the UK experiencing mildly debilitating symptoms of SAD, otherwise known as ‘Subsyndromal SAD’. Beyond this, many of us will talk of the ‘winter blues’ and list various mental and physical ailments associated with the season, and the rest of us will simply find the darker days of winter to be a bit of a downer – a less inspiring time of year than the sun-filled days of summer. For these somewhat morose few, there is very little helpful advice out there. A general sense of dispirit of course has a knock on effect on the way we live and work, making us less creative, less productive and less able to think up quick solutions to problems.
If you’re one of those who feels the winter blues, let us throw a little light on your situation. We’ve come up with a simple, do-able three-pronged attack that will help keep your spirits high, even if the temperature isn’t.
TIP 1: EAT WELL, DRINK LOTS, SLEEP IT OFF
With viruses abounding and a lack of vitamin D enriching sunshine, it’s more important than ever to take care of your physical health during the winter months. Nutrition is vital. Hydrate yourself with extra water (or coconut water) that indoor heating will evaporate fast. Aim to eat more fruit and veg to boost your immune system. Also try consuming more foods that are believed to reduce stress. Salmon, watermelon (now available all year round) and dark chocolate have all been shown to be great for your mood and hormone balance. Sleep is also important – you may not need a full eight hours, but if you do, treat yourself to it – it may be all you need to boost your immune system and stave off any winter bugs.
TIP 2: GET A BOX OF LIGHT
A key cause of the winter blues is the lack of light. London’s Royal College of Psychiatrists strongly recommends seeking as much exposure to natural light as possible. When London’s cloudy ceiling is making this difficult, why not look to alternative sources of luminosity to lighten up your day? The recommended treatment for those suffering with winter blues is ‘blue and white light therapy’. According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, this method is effective for 85% of cases and usually works within two weeks. You can get this service from a number of clinics across London for a couple of hundred quid. If this is a little beyond your budget, why not invest in a specialised SAD lightbox for the office? There are a range of options available to buy from department stores and online specialists.
Sweden is leading the way for light sufferers with bars and cafés lit by specialised SAD lights where customers can refuel vitamin D levels. Until London follows Stockholm’s lead, make sure you’re getting all the light you can this winter.
TIP 3: WHACK A SMILE ON
IF SAD lights and root vegetables aren’t your bag, you’ll be pleased to know that the most effective way of fighting the winter blues is also the cheapest. A survey of over 2000 people showed that a simple smile is the master key to winter wellbeing.
Sound a bit glib? Listen on.
90% of respondents said that giving or getting a smile from someone they didn’t know was one of the top things that would boost their mood. The endorphins created by both giving and receiving a smile can improve not just your morale, but also your physical health. As for receiving a spontaneous hug from a friend or family member – that also scored highly in the survey, with 40% of respondents saying it made their day.
Don’t try hugging your way through the workplace, you may well get arrested, but instead, try a smile meditation – here’s how.
Make yourself smile for the WHOLE duration of a single song – either on your headphones, on the radio, or even whilst walking around a shop. You will ACTUALLY feel like a crazy person for 3 minutes, but force yourself – it gets easier as your nerve endings start to fool your brain into thinking something has genuinely made you feel great. This is an astonishingly simple and effective exercise. Naturally we want to hear how it works for you!
…actively push yourself to OWN this coming winter!
In short, if you’re a sunshine lover who suffers during darker days, actively push yourself to own this coming winter! Simply by following these few simple tips, your chin can lift and your spirits with it. Remember, that it’s not just you who benefits -your good spirits might just warm up a fellow Londoner too!
PS. Happy Bonfire Night !