There are many benefits to living in Scotland – but the winter weather is not one of them. Living in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere means longer hours of darkness. We often go the work in the dark, we come home in the dark and trudge through the most miserable of weather. No wonder people feel depressed.
It is know as Seasonal Affective Disorder, and for many people it means inability to concentrate, sluggishness, no desire to get out of bed in the morning, weight gain from eating the wrong foods, and a desire to withdraw from communication with friends and family. You will often feel more tired, anxious and moody. Even your sexual activity decreases.
Scientists tell us that this is caused by disruption to our circadian rhythms – the daily biological rhythms which regulate our eating, feelings, sleeping and exercise. Without sufficient daylight our bodies do not feel awake, leading to the lethargy that causes mood swings and depression, leading to SAD.
We can’t unfortunately change the weather and daylight hours in Scotland, but we can make some lifestyle changes which will improve how we feel.
Get outside – Our lives are drawn more and more indoors these days, often because of working at a computer, but even a daily one hour walk, especially around noon when there is at least some limited sunshine, will help tackle the winter blues. Seek out the sunlight whenever you can, even if it is just sitting in the window seat of a restaurant. Light boxes have also helped some people beat off the winter blues.
Eat healthily – Bin the sweets left over from Christmas and concentrate, not on the carbohydrates you crave, but on fresh fruit and vegetables. The Vitamin D in fish and eggs will also help.
See your friends and family – Socialising has been shown to improve your mental health so even when you are tempted to turn down invitations, push yourself to go, even if it is just for a short while.
Rediscover your hobbies, or take up a new one – Keeping your mind active can help ward off SAD, so if you ever thought of joining a choir, going to night classes, learning a language or playing bridge, then now is the time to start.
Exercise - Not only will it help you to lose the extra pounds you may have been putting on, it also relieves stress and releases the body’s natural feel good hormones.
Treat yourself - Plan an outing or a special event to look forward to and plan it with your friends. But don’t make it one that involves a huge amount of alcohol. Binge drinking, while tempting for some, will often just make you feel worse afterwards.
Finally, if you are still struggling to cope, consider asking for support or contact Equilibria where we can talk to you about effective treatment.