For those in the lower states of Australia whose winter temperatures don’t sit in the balmy 21° range (Queensland I’m looking at you), winter is often associated with layers of flannel pyjamas, ugg boots and curling up on the couch under layers of blankets. While initially many of us welcome this temperature change and dream of hot chocolate next to the fire, the reality of winter is often very different.
Winter is associated with shorter days, less sunlight, rain, and low temperatures. Unsurprisingly, many Australians feel a general mood downturn during these months, often reporting feeling flat and lethargic.
So why may this be? There are several scientific theories that propose why mood may be affected by these seasonal changes, often focusing on the changes in the production of melatonin, serotonin and vitamin D deficiency. These are directed at understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder, a psychological depressive condition that is believed to be caused by reduced light exposure. However, it’s important to note that this is different to the general mood downturn we are referring to here, so if you have concerns about your, or a loved one’s, mood contact your local GP or psychologist.
But how can we beat those winter blues?
Sunlight & Outdoors
Go outside! It’s easy to want to stay indoors during the cold months, but sunlight (and fresh air) are good for you! Vitamin D has been theorised to play an important role in improving mood. If you can’t go outside as often as you’d like, try and work in brightly lit surroundings, maybe consider moving your desk closer to a window.
Exercise has been shown to increase mental and physical wellbeing. Regular and frequent exercise routines are known to improve mood and, even better, it is a great stress reducer. Go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, dance in your room – anything you enjoy. Just move regularly!
Sleep hygiene is vital to your mood. Set a consistent bedtime and wake up time. Our body operates on a 24-hour cycle – irregularities can interfere with our biological cycle - impacting our general wellbeing. Speaking of – avoid screens before sleep. Blue light produced by these devices supress the production of melatonin – a hormone which signals to our body it is time to sleep.
Catch up with your friends and family! It is really easy to withdraw during the winter months and binge watching Netflix. Scheduling pleasant activities has been shown to be an effective treatment to increase mood. Further, high levels of social support weaken the impact of stressors on our mood
Avoid alcohol, sugar and processed food. The link between the gut and our mind is becoming vital in the world of psychology. Focus on the intake foods that are high in minerals and vitamins; think vegetables, fruits, whole grains. Processed foods (particularly sugar) impact our blood sugar, insulin and hormones which can destabilise our mood. We need plenty of good minerals, vitamins and natural fats to keep our brain happy.