For many thousands of people, the onset of the winter months can bring with it the dreaded “winter blues”, the common name for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD syndrome can make you feel down, and depressed and ranges from mild to severe.
There are certain things you can do to lessen the impact of this problem, but the main one is to get active.
Exercise has long been promoted for overall good health and wellbeing, but more in the physical sense. Now however scientists and doctors are appreciating more its value for our mental health. As we discussed in this article, exercise can prevent the onset of depression. It increases our endorphin levels which give us a real feel-good factor, leaving us feeling happy and giving us a sense of wellbeing.
Often when you’re feeling depressed, you feel that you simply can’t drag yourself out of the house. If you can start an exercise regime before the winter blues strike, then it’s more likely you will get through it with milder or no symptoms, and you’ll find it easier to keep up with your programme.
Joining a gym is one way to ensure you stick to a programme, as you can get specialist help to guide you on a path that best suits you. Trainers are on hand for you to ask advice, and help you stick to your goals.
If you can’t get to the gym, just getting outside has been proven to reduce the effects of SAD. By literally blowing away the cobwebs in the open air you can feel less depressed. Also, going outside helps increase your bodies uptake of vitamin D – rarely seen in the winter months as it comes from sunlight, along with certain foods.
The more light you can get in these dark days, the less likely you to feel the effects of SAD.
Going for a brisk walk could be just the ticket, and something that is particularly sociable and family friendly. Coming up to Christmas it’s a great excuse to get the whole family out together to enjoy the outdoors. If you prefer something more intensive, then combine walking with a running programme. You might have someone you can go for a run with, or you might prefer to go it alone, but however you do it you’ll feel the effects immediately.
When we’ve achieved a physical goal, such as completing a run, or been on a brisk walk, we feel that we’ve something to celebrate and commend ourselves for. All of this boosts our psychological wellbeing, helping to beat feelings of depression.
Generally keeping busy is a great way to keep any darker feelings at bay. Try and stay active on a daily basis. Taking up new activities with friends is the ideal way of giving yourself a boost. Join a new yoga group with a mate, you’ll have a giggle and keep active and healthy, the best combination for feeling good.
In combination with lots of exercise and activity, eating well over the winter months is vital for feeling good. It’s particularly easy to eat unhealthy meals as the cold sets in – carb laden “comfort food” and rich puddings all seem to call far louder in the winter months. But if you can keep your calorie count in check over winter, and even Christmas, then you won’t get any feelings of self-doubt and you’ll be able to keep your esteem higher.
Too many calories can make us sluggish and more reluctant to go to the gym, or do exercise in general, which is why eating healthily is such a good idea. The healthier we eat, the healthier we behave as one habit perpetuates another healthy habit.
We all feel down occasionally, it’s human nature, but if you know you are particularly susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, then it’s best to think ahead to try and prevent it.
Keep your schedule busy, take your mind off the grey winter days and instead fill them with colour, excitement and activity. You might even find that investing in a UV light, which increases your vitamin D levels, is a wise purchase.
But above all exercise is key, as it is key to most health issues. It can play a huge role in keeping you well, keeping colds and viruses at bay at keeping you on top of it all.
You might meet new friends at the gym, or find yourself taking up a new sport that you never knew about before, by keeping active you can turn around what could have potentially been a depressing and grey time of year into one full of challenges, excitement and meeting personal goals. And although you’ll be trying to keep your calories in check, I’m sure after all of this you’ll deserve at least a couple of mince pies!
by Jessica Ward
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