The days are beginning to shorten and soon we’ll be turning the clocks back. In primitive times we would retreat to our caves to escape the harsh winter storms and shortened days which meant we had less time to hunt. In many respects we do the same even in the modern world with the cosy warmth and light of our homes offering shelter and comfort from the cold, dark world outside.
SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder/Depression is often experienced in the winter months by those who, during the rest of the year, feel no depression or low mood. Light boxes can be of benefit during the winter months in addition to exercise, relaxing the mind and positive interaction with others.
It is tempting when we leave work, often in the dark, to rush home and feel no motivation to go out again. Staying home in the warmth may feel comfortable but at the expense of us engaging in activities which have a positive impact on our mental health.
Our mental health is as important to look after as our physical health and yet sadly there is still a stigma attached to the words ‘mental health’. We all need to take active steps to manage how we feel and we need to take these steps consistently.
Exercise boosts the neurotransmitters which regulate our mood and of course exercise is good for both the mind and the body; primitive man felt good after hunting! Exercise also provides an opportunity for positive interaction with other people; we are social animals and when we lived in tribes we would go out hunting together, sit around the camp fire listening to elders tell us stories or talk to our fellow tribesmen/women about how our day had been.
Relaxing the mind is vital as we struggle to feel good when our internal stress buckets are full. Just 25 minutes of daily guided meditation begins the process of emptying the bucket, which in turn leads to better sleep and better mood.
Spending some of our free-time outside is also vital as during the working week we often go to work and return from work in the dark – vitamin D is made from sunlight via our skin and whilst the winter months offer less bright sunlight it is still beneficial to spend time outside. In winter some doctors may recommend a Vitamin D supplement as low levels have been linked to low mood and depression.
The clocks aren’t turned back until the end of October so why not set up a routine of positive interaction, exercise and relaxation for the mind today! Don’t let the winter get you down!