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Beat the winter blues

Sarah Horrocks
By Sarah Horrocks Published on 12 February 2008

Winter is in full force and you may find yourself feeling tired and sad, sleeping more than usual and turning more often to comfort foods. Maybe you have a bout of the winter blues? Here’s our advice on how to beat them.

A lack of light
With the arrival of autumn, around one person in 10 suffers from seasonal affective disorder or SAD, commonly referred to as the winter blues or seasonal depression. According to several studies, lack of light is a fundamental cause of SAD. As the days get shorter and the nights longer, the brain secrets more melatonin which makes us lethargic, irritable and disrupts our internal body clock.

Our tips for beating the blues
There are several simple and effective methods to help keep spirits high in winter:
- Phototherapy or bright light therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of SAD. It involves being exposed to a special flourescent lamp for 30 to 60 minutes per day. Some doctors and hospitals offer sessions or you can buy a portable lamp to use at home. There are other types of lamps available that can bring the daylight indoors, as well as lamps that regulate your sleep with natural day and night times.
- Get moving! Don’t spend your lunch break eating a sandwich or sugar-loaded snack in front of your computer screen: take some time for yourself and go for a walk in the park alone, with your sweetheart or your colleagues. Go window shopping. Nothing is better to avoid dwelling on your woes than a bit of action.
- Get some sun. If you have the means, why not take a winter break to warmer climes? Sun, sand and palm trees - an ideal way to recharge those batteries.
- Pamper yourself. Don't forget to look after yourself in winter. Take relaxing soaks in a bubble bath, use hydrating face masks and get a massage with essential oils. Pampering will instantly lift your mood.
- Sleep. It’s natural to want to sleep more during this period, but with so much going on we often forget to catch those ZZZs. Try to sleep 7 to 8 hours at night and try to keep your bedtime and getting up time consistent. Sticking to a routine gives you more energy. Avoid those long weekend lie-ins: they can make you feel even more tired. Don’t forget naps: a 20-minute power nap can give you the energy you need for the rest of the day.
- Get out. Go to the cinema or for a romantic dinner with your other half, to the theatre or out shopping with the girls. This will keep your mind occupied. Even if going out is tough to get used to when it's cold out, you’ll get a taste for it. Get out and about at least once a week.
- Exercise. Jogging, a few laps at the pool, cycling, salsa classes or yoga can do wonders for your mood. Exercise not only regulates your weight and keeps you healthy: it also relieves stress, helps you let off steam and releases feel good chemicals that improve your mood.
- Work on your image. Make the most of your indoor time and give yourself a makeover. Try a different hairstyle, get a new wardrobe and accessories. Work with a stylist or friends; it will give you something to work towards and will boost your morale.
- Eat healthily. A balanced diet is essential in the winter, as we do tend to turn to food for comfort. Make your meals light and eat as much vegetable soup as you can. If you can, do a day or two of detox with just fruit and veg to purify your body as well as your mind. Take extra vitamins if you need to complement your diet and strengthen your immune system.
- Think of others. Help out in your community or join a charity. It will put your everyday concerns into perspective and make you feel useful!
- Seek help if you need it. If you need more help, speak to your GP who can give you more advice or just a shoulder and an ear.

by Sarah Horrocks

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