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The London Psychiatry Centre / Blog  / 7 Activities To Help Boost Your Mood During Winter
Boost Your Mood In Winter: How To Fight Seasonal Depression

7 Activities To Help Boost Your Mood During Winter

Trying to boost your mood in winter can seem like a difficult undertaking. As the days become shorter and the temperatures drop, it is easy to let the inevitable changes in winter impact your mood. In fact, one in three people in the UK experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by a change in season and is most common in winter.

Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, Consultant Psychiatrist, says: “There are plenty of simple activities that you can take part in to lift your mood before spring comes around again. In the same spirit as the Danish concept of ‘hygge’, finding comfort in the smaller things in life can help you achieve positivity and a greater appreciation for the present moment. Being present in your daily life can help ease feelings of anxiety and low mood, strengthen your relationships and even help you progress in your career – so it is worth putting a small amount of effort in every day.”

If you are struggling to cope with the change in season, here are seven tips that may help bring some light to those dark winter days.

1. Try Bright Light Therapy

Bright light therapy involves being exposed to artificial light in order to simulate the effects of longer, brighter days. It is well established in the treatment of SAD, with studies showing that early morning light therapy has the most positive effect on mental wellbeing.

There are many bright light therapy devices which go by different names, such as daylight therapy lamps, SAD lamps and light boxes. When selecting a light therapy device, choose one with over 10,000 lux, as this is generally agreed to be the most effective measurement for bright light therapy.

2. Embrace The Word ‘No’

Self care can include doing what feels right for you in social situations. If you feel that you would benefit from being at home by yourself or with your household members and perhaps getting an early night rather than going out for a social gathering, then it may benefit you to say ‘no’ every so often.

While it may not be easy to decline an invite, it may be the best thing that you can do for your mental health.

3. Eat Mood-Boosting Foods

It is normal to eat more and, as a result, put on weight during the winter months. However, this can often result in body confidence issues, which may exacerbate existing mental health problems.

Instead of succumbing to winter comfort foods, try to include more leafy green vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Leafy greens boost brain health and are a good source of folate, a deficiency of which is linked to brain ageing, depression and dementia. Meanwhile, wholegrains contain tryptophan, which is needed by your body to produce mood boosting serotonin.

4. Explore Aromatherapy

Popular in folk medicine, aromatherapy oils have also been shown to have an antidepressant-like effect, and studies involving rats show a reduction in stress in response to essential oil exposure.

You can use aromatherapy oils by simply applying a few small drops to your skin, such as the skin on your wrists, and rubbing it in to intensify the scent; using a few drops in a diffuser; or lighting a candle made with essential oils. For this experience, you may wish to take time to relax by meditating, performing self-massage, or another gentle activity such as reading a book or journaling.

5. Increase Vitamin D Intake

Vitamin D has many benefits for physical health, including helping to prevent osteoporosis and strengthen the immune system, it may also have mental health benefits.

Studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is linked with mood disorders, including SAD, which tells us that increasing one’s vitamin D intake could be key to maintaining a positive mood over the winter months.

As humans, our bodies can create vitamin D with the help of certain foods, supplements and sun exposure. However, during the winter, sun exposure decreases, and we must increase our intake from other sources in order to meet the daily recommended amount.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises an intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day for people aged four and over. However, most people intake far less than the recommended amount, and around one in six people in the UK have a deficiency.

6. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

It is recommended that adults get between seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, as sleep problems can have a high impact on physical and mental health. Luckily, mild issues with sleep normally sort themselves out quickly, and you can improve your ‘sleep hygiene’ with small tasks such as:

  • Going to bed and waking up at consistent times each day
  • Ensuring that your bedroom is dark and the temperature is comfortably on the cool side
  • Exercising during the day
  • Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol

Better sleep can help you wake up feeling refreshed and more motivated to take on the day.

7. Undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a successful treatment for a variety of mental health disorders, including SAD. This is a type of talking therapy which involves a therapist supporting a patient in breaking down their issues through structured conversation, and educating them on how to confront and deal with these issues in a practical way.

For example, if you have a tendency to think and talk about the winter seasons in a negative way and this is contributing to an overall negative feeling surrounding winter, CBT may help you see this season in a positive light by helping you find elements that are enjoyable to you.

A combination of CBT and light therapy have been shown to significantly improve symptoms of seasonal depression, and this could therefore be an effective solution for those who are finding it difficult to improve their symptoms using other self care methods.

Treatment For Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you want to find out more about the treatment options for SAD, read our page on the disorder here. You can also talk to one of our friendly team about the options that may be best suited to you. Call or email us using the details below.

T: 020 7580 4224

E: info@psychiatrycentre.co.uk

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