Written & provided by: Registered Dietitians Team by ShoppersTM I’ll be the first to admit that keeping up with food trends and knowing what...Continue reading
Blue Monday, which falls this year on January 16th, is touted as the most depressing day of the year. The fact that the holidays are over, the weather’s still cold and dark, and many people are finding it difficult to keep up with their new year’s resolutions, add up to make this the dreariest Monday of the year.
Even if the concept of Blue Monday isn’t exactly backed up by science, it is true that many people struggle more with their mental health during the winter than at other times of the year. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 35% of Canadians report having the “winter blues”, while another 10-15% have a mild form of seasonal depression, and 2-5% have a severe form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is SAD?
SAD usually begins in the fall when the days start getting shorter and normally lasts throughout the winter. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, SAD could be the cause:
- Trouble sleeping
- Change of appetite and cravings for sugary and starchy foods
- Weight gain
- Feeling sad, guilty, hopeless, and irritable
- Avoiding the people and activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling tense and stressed
It’s not fully known what causes SAD. It’s believed to be due to a lack of sunlight, though there could be a genetic aspect as well, since 13-17% of those with SAD also have an immediate family member with the disorder.
If you find that you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, continue reading for our tips on giving yours a boost.
Improve your mental health during winter (and year round!)
Being physically active brings many health benefits, including for your mental health. It can help you feel more energized and less sluggish, as well as helping release feel-good hormones in your brain. It doesn’t have to be an intense exercise regime – scheduling a 20-minute walk every day is a great place to start. And if you have a local park or walking trail nearby, you can experience the added benefits of getting out into nature. A recent study at the UK’s University of Exeter found that people who spent two hours a week immersed in nature reported greater psychological wellbeing than those who didn’t.
If you’d like to get more active but don’t know where to start, why not check out our range of fitness products.
Connect with friends and family
If you’re experiencing SAD, it can be tempting to hide away from the world, but it can be good for your mental health to try and get some social interaction – even if you don’t really feel like it. Staying connected to those around us, whether that’s by having a quick video call, meeting for a coffee, or hosting a games night, can help lift our mood and distract us from negative feelings.
Eat fruit and veggies
During the winter, you may find yourself craving sugary foods. These can cause you to temporarily feel better, but this is short lived, and they often lead to a sugar crash. On the other hand, nutrient-rich foods can help you feel better, but without the mood swings. So, try filling your plate with non-processed wholefoods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts.
See the light
SAD is thought to be triggered by a lack of sunlight in the winter months. It makes sense, therefore, that boosting your exposure to sunlight can help you feel better. Try to get outside for a walk at around midday each day when the sun’s at its highest. When you’re inside, make sure you open the curtains and try to sit near a window to get as much sunlight as possible. You might also want to try light therapy. This is when you sit in front of a special device called a light therapy box each morning for about 20 to 30 minutes within the first hour of waking up. The device mimics outdoor light and can help make up for the lack of sunshine in the colder months. There can be some side effects to light therapy so it’s important that you speak to your doctor first. If you’re interested in trying it out, Wellwise by Shoppers™ offers a range of light therapy boxes.
If Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting your day-to-day life, you might want to consider psychotherapy. There are different types of therapy to try out so you can find what works best for you. One type is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on changing how we think about situations and what we do in order to change how we feel. Counselling is another option and is a talking therapy that aims to explore whether experiences in your past affect how you’re feeling today.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of depression – no matter the time of year – it can be hard to know where to start. We hope that these suggestions inspire you to take the first steps toward improving your mental health.
The information presented in this blog post is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information in this post as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.