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5 Ways To Fight Depression This Winter

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

As December approaches, the temperatures have started to fall and the nights have begun drawing in. While some of us relish the arrival of winter, others could really do without. One in three adults in the UK experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, in winter. These can include low moods, lessened interest in everyday activities, irritability, lethargy, and even craving unhealthy foods.

So if you’d like to stave off the winter blues this year, here are 5 tips for you.

1. Go outside

Yes, it’s cold; that doesn’t mean you can or should stay inside for 4 months! There are a huge number of benefits to going outdoors, including increased vitality and happiness, improved sleep, and a strengthened immune system. That’s not all though; it’s been proven that going outside can give your mental health a serious boost, reducing feelings of anger, anxiety, and stress. Under current circumstances, it also gives you the opportunity to connect and socialise safely with others. This in and of itself can do wonders for various aspects of your physical and mental health.

2. Talk to friends and family

As mentioned in the first point of this list, socialising with others is a great way to keep yourself happy. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, winter had the potential to isolate us. Avoiding colds & flus, lessened opportunity for group activities, and generally reduced motivation for many things were all reasons for solitude before. But now more than ever, we need to make the effort to connect with each other.

It has been suggested that socialisation can improve your health in many ways, including a stronger immune system, lowered risk of dementia, and even an increased lifespan. However, some of the best short-term benefits you get from interaction with others are boosted feelings of well-being, and reduced feelings of depression. In addition to helping your own mental state, you may well help someone who really needs it simply by reaching out.

3. Supplement Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential substance to keep our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy as it allows your body to absorb certain nutrients. It is also vital for our brain health. We typically get our vitamin D from sunlight, as our body is able to produce its own with sufficient exposure to UVB rays. Not having enough vitamin D in your body has been linked with depression, seasonal affective disorder, and even schizophrenia.

Over the darker months of the year, our natural uptake of this vital vitamin is drastically reduced. While we should still strive to go outdoors, the sun may not be strong enough, so consider supplementing this vitamin from September to March.

4. Eat well & exercise

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but that is simply testament to its importance. Diet and lifestyle changes are an incredibly simple, effective, almost cure-all tonic that are not replaceable.

While it may seem obvious, what you eat has an enormous impact on your wellbeing. If you eat well - a varied diet based largely on whole plant foods - you will not only feel better physically, but about yourself too. That self-esteem boost alone can lead to a more positive mindset, trying new things, and having a generally brighter outlook on things. An easy way to achieve this is using a meal planner, which will give you ideas for healthy recipes to try every day.

Exercise, similarly, both benefits you physically and raises your self-esteem. There is also research to suggest that it has a long list of other mental health benefits, including lessening symptoms of depression & anxiety, improving social skills, and improving cognitive functioning. Some good ways to get started are:

  • Find a free activity that you enjoy

  • Follow a programme like Couch to 5k or get a workout app

  • Ask an active friend to join their next session

5. Learn a new skill

Trying new things can improve your state of mind. Research has shown that continuing to try new things and learn throughout life has numerous benefits. These include slowing brain ageing, boosting self-esteem, adding meaning to life, and fostering connection with others. While it may be difficult to participate in group learning activities at present, learning at home both gives you something to do and will make connecting with others easier in future, whether it be on or offline; a hobby is a talking point and makes you more interesting!

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