This time of year comes with many challenges. Winter means longer nights and shorter days, taking from us our desire to work out, walk outside or be anywhere else aside from the couch with our blankets. Furthermore, we often find ourselves leaving the house before the sun is up and returning home when the sun has gone down or, if we are working from home, we might not even be able to get outside. Slowly but surely, we may experience a bit of sadness settling in our spirits. Perhaps we don´t feel as motivated as we did in summer, we crave more carbohydrate-based foods, our sleep patterns are irregular, and we may even find it difficult to enjoy activities that previously provided us with much happiness.
Don't worry you are not alone!
You may have the winter blues…
The winter blues is a more general term than an actual medical diagnosis. It is common to experience a change in mood and energy levels as the seasons change. This is often linked to less exposure to the sun which provides us with vitamin D, an essential vitamin to protect our bones and teeth but also an integral part of our hormonal system. In fact, recent research by NIH (National Institute of Health) in the UK has discovered that individuals with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop depression. This is an incredibly important finding for a country that experiences a drastic change in sunlight during the winter months.
South Africa also experiences drastic changes, our days are much shorter and sometimes we may only see the sun on our car ride to and back from work, if we are lucky.
There is a medical diagnosis for a severe form of winter blues. It is called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. It is much more severe and requires medical treatment, either through therapy and or medication. This is considered a depression that happens during the winter months. It physically hinders your capacity to function. It is especially important to be aware of the difference.
It is Ok to feel sad every now and then. In fact, in winter it may even be considered normal to feel a little down. However, if you find yourself physically impaired and unwilling to perform even basic tasks, please speak to friends and family and make sure you get the right support and treatment. It is important to not feel alone as this SAD medical condition, like any form of depression, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reach out for help, it may change your life around.
If you are struggling with mood changes and lack of motivation this winter, here are 6 practical tips to help you lift your mood!
- Keep your sleep cycle regular. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time. It is important to keep your body’s cycle as this will guarantee maximum rest as well as peace of mind. Have a soothing bedtime routine to tell your body you are going to bed and try it for two or three weeks – soon your body will recognize it as an indication for bedtime. Remember it is important to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for your overall health.
- Keep moving. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins the feel-good hormone this will give your mood a boost and help you cope with an overall feeling of sadness. It can be exceedingly difficult to get yourself moving in winter but start with 30 minutes of walking and take it from there. Let it be a source of comfort, not stress. Even 10 minutes can go a long way. Yet studies have shown that doing 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week is great for mood and it is excellent for your overall wellbeing.
- Spend time with others. Human connection is extremely important for mental health. Often spending time with loved ones can release many positive messages for the brain. It can release more endorphins, reduce cortisol in the bloodstream and remind you that you are not alone. Take all the precautions necessary to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus but do not isolate yourself unless you must. Even a simple video call can do wonders.
- Avoid carbs and sugars – this is particularly challenging; winter often leads to cravings and bigger portions and more rich foods. This can be a problem as this will provide a temporary “high” and then it will be followed but a slump in energy. This may lead to more sugar cravings and a vicious cycle may start. This can lead to weight gain but also a worsening of mood and a decline of an overall feeling of wellness.
- Try a light lamp. Lightboxes that emit light close to natural light are widely available. This may be used in your lounge and room to give you the “sunlight” you need.
- Most importantly if you can, sit in the sun for at least 20 minutes a day.
Small steps can make a big difference in your health! If you are looking for good sources of vitamin D, you may want to try our Zinplex Triple Plus for your everyday use and our Zinplex Junior Syrup with vitamin D3 for your little ones. www.zinplex.co.za From Zinplex – a healthier way of life.