Now the clocks have gone back it feels like winter is well and truly here. It may seem there’s a long slog ahead until spring arrives to cheer us up.
Up to one in five of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – a form of depression usually associated with winter – which makes normal functioning difficult or impossible.
For the rest of us, it’s not unusual to feel gloomy and lethargic, making it harder to do the things that would lift our mood. We may need to make a conscious effort to follow these three tips every day:
Get outside and get moving: This has the double benefit of waking up a sluggish body and exposing us to more daylight. The NHS recommends going for a run – but if (like me) the thought of that much effort just makes you feel inadequate, a brisk walk to the shops or round the block will do.
Sometimes I peg washing on the line, even if it’s threatening rain and I’ll have to bring it in before it’s dry, just to be doing something outdoors. While you’re out there try to notice the things you can see, hear and feel in the moment.
Create cheer: Anything that makes you laugh, such as funny films or TV programmes. Anything that connects you to others such as inviting friends round or just connecting by phone. Plan something to look forward to, from a country walk to next year’s holiday. Or do something that gives you a sense of achievement – declutter a room or start a new hobby.
Nurture yourself: That means wrapping up warm or snuggling on a cosy sofa (feeling cold can make us more depressed); eating food that’s both comforting and healthy, like hearty stews and soups, and getting enough sleep. Go for early nights rather than late lie-ins though, to maximise the amount of daylight you are exposed to.
And if you are struggling to stay active and positive, then you deserve more support, so talk to someone about how you’re feeling and arrange to see your doctor.
Karen Bray (MBACP) is a counsellor with a private practice in Bath. Her website is at www.karenbray.co.uk.