The effects can vary greatly from person to person ranging from a general feeling of tiredness and a lack of motivation through to extreme depression. It can make us anxious and irritable; we may start to crave carbohydrates such as starchy and sugary foods, making us gain weight. It can even affect our sex-drive.
The lack of daylight in our lives, waking up in darkness, and coming home from work in darkness can all take their toll. Whilst we can’t control the seasons or the weather, we can play a part in helping ourselves build some resilience to get through the long dark months ahead.
Quite simply, your body wants sunlight, without it we go into a type of ‘hibernation’ mode which makes us slow down and retreat into ourselves. Your body also needs to keep moving on a regular basis to keep your ‘happy-hormones’ flowing and increase your sense of well-being. It takes a little forward planning, and you may have to push yourself that bit harder but could really make a difference to your overall feeling of mental wellness this winter.
It is the small, positive adjustments that make a big difference.
Whenever possible, get yourself outdoors during sunlight hours. You may not feel inclined to in cold weather, but if you make the effort, you will reap the rewards. Are there any times when you could wrap up warm and get yourself outside for a brisk walk in daylight? Lunch time at work perhaps? Could you get off the bus a couple of stops early and do some extra walking?
Think daylight! Can you position yourself nearer to a window at home or work during daylight hours? What else could you do to ensure you’re getting more natural daylight? Have a think about it, just imagining seeing a blue sky can actually put you in a more positive frame of mind. Bring some nature into your home, get a couple of winter flowering plants and nurture them.
Plan ahead with your eating and ensure you are not overdoing it with too much carbohydrate rich food. It will make a difference; you will feel energised and be more inclined to keep moving.
LED daylight simulator bulbs are cheap enough at many stores and are economical to run. They mimic natural light and keep you wakeful; just remember to turn them down in the evening.
At this time of the year, it is so easy to let things get on top of us, when we are stuck indoors, it is easy to get into unhelpful habits such as ‘Doomscrolling’. If you’re wondering what on earth I am talking about, doomscrolling is when we spend an excessive amount of time reading negative news online.
Some people do it because they want to stay informed about what is happening in the world. Others do it because they are drawn to negative news stories.
Here’s the thing though, we cannot help it!
Instinctively we tend to look at things in the worst possible case scenario, it is part of our natural defence mechanism. Our brains are naturally drawn to negative information, as it is more likely to be important and relevant to our survival. This negative bias can lead us to seek-out and consume more negative news than positive news.
When we do it to excess, or feel it has become a habit we cannot break, doomscrolling can have a negative impact on our mental health. When we are constantly exposed to negative news, it can make us feel anxious, depressed, and hopeless. It can also make it difficult to focus on the positive aspects of our lives. The same can be said when we find ourselves watching the rolling news channels excessively on TV, it can be very addictive.
If this sounds like you, then please make a conscious effort to think about some of the activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good.
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Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various disciplines and an instructor member of Mental Health First Aid England.
Please note: If you feel you are in a mental health crisis or emergency and feel you may be in danger of causing harm to yourself or others then please contact your GP, The Samaritans on 116 123 or attend A&E.