At 5.00 am this morning I looked up at my skylight and realised that it was dark. I had become accustomed to bright daylight, so this was a bit of shock.
I rather enjoy our seasons, and autumn is my favourite time of the year. Even so, I did feel a pang that already there are signs that summer is almost over.
For many people this is a much bigger issue. The NHS estimates that 1 in 15 people in the UK struggle with a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) between September and April.
Most of us can identify with some elements of the ‘winter blues’. There is something deeply unpleasant about going to work and returning home in the dark. For some SAD sufferer’s symptoms are debilitating and it is difficult to function at all in the winter.
What differentiates SAD from other forms of depression is that it generally gets better in the spring. Lack of sunlight is thought to be a major contributor to the condition.
How do you know if you are suffering from SAD?
Signs that you may suffer from SAD include over-sleeping and finding it especially hard to get up in the morning. You may feel low and lack the motivation to do things that you usually enjoy. SAD is typically diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 30. The extent to which children are affected is unclear.
What can you do if you are SAD?
- See your GP – SAD may be diagnosed if you have had similar symptoms for two years in a row
- Talking therapies and coaching can help you to cope
- Get a light box – the evidence is mounting that these make a difference
- Go outside – consider a lunch time walk if you work in the daytime
- Light, light and lighter. Sit near windows, brighten the lighting in your home
- Look at your diet – salmon, berries and dark chocolate are examples of food that can positively impact on mood
My personal tip is for all of us to adjust our thought habits so that we celebrate all that is good about winter rather than focus on the negatives.
It is a great time to try something that you wouldn’t normally do. A dry ski slope lesson, winter curling, mulled wine, Christmas Markets, star gazing – and our coastline is amazing in winter. If you have the budget, how about a winter City break. Try Barcelona, Salzburg or Iceland, the land of Ice and Fire. You might even see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Best seen from January to March.
Or have a hygge day (pronounced hooga). The Little Book of Hygge is a great read and is full of wonderful ways in which we can enhance our lives in winter. In it, the author Meik Wiking, says this about the Danish climate. ‘Some describe the Danish weather as dark, windy and damp. Some say Denmark has two winters, one grey and one green’. Yet Danish people consistently top the charts as the world’s happiest people.
Autumn and winter is high season for hygge. Light some candles, wrap yourself in your duvet with a cup of hot chocolate by a window and prepare for a wonderful winter.