With the days getting shorter as we’ve hit November, and with Christmas just around the corner (yikes), our motivation to move seems to dwindle. Seasonal changes affect our mood, and our mojo gets lost within the clouds and washed away with the rain.
Last January, The Boar Lifestyle published an insightful article on the January Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder following the festive period. The seasons are changing again, and the incoming cold weather means it’s important to revert back to raising awareness of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I want to provide tips on ways you can combat its effects. As much as we’d all like to hibernate right now, it’s vital that we maintain a mentally-nourishing and productive lifestyle throughout the autumn and winter seasons.
In the same way that the aliens of Toy Story worship the claw, the lamp could be your vice this winter.
Seasonal changes like the clocks going back mean even less natural light than there was already. Lack of exposure to sunlight contributes to the development of SAD, and so light therapy is unsurprisingly a way to combat its symptoms.
How can this be achieved? A light box. Now you might be wondering ‘isn’t that just a long-winded name for your standard table-top lamp?’, but, as well as the colour of the light being white or blue, light boxes actually generate at least 10 times more lux than a regular bulb. However, make sure your light box is specifically for SAD treatment. This will filter out UV rays which can be harmful to the retina and make them safe to use.
How do you use your light box? It’s recommended that you sit in front of it between 20 to 90 minutes a day. Place it somewhere near your desk or vanity so you can reap its benefits whilst you’re working, reading or doing your makeup. Make sure it’s at roughly at eye-level and two feet away from you (more or less two A4 notepads away for reference). And the most important thing – try to do this as early in the morning as possible. Personally, I’ve found this can help wake up you up and improve your mood for the rest of the day.
Better yet, if possible, expose yourself to as much natural sunlight as possible by starting your day off with a walk and make the most of the shorter days whilst you can.
Making comfort food with healthy carbs
One of the better things about autumn and winter is seasonal comfort food. Anything starchy will give us that cosy feeling, but try to avoid relying on sweet foods. Overeating is linked with the symptoms of SAD and so it’s important to make sure the foods we’re eating are going to help nourish our bodies and minds. Fruit and veg are a great source of fibre and have been linked to boosting our moods. Potato-based soups or stews that you can bulk prepare and heat up during the week are a great way to achieve this. They’re cheap and full of slow-burning carbs and the vitamins we tend to lack in the winter months.
It might even be worth investing in a vitamin D supplement, something we’re especially lacking in the UK.
The circadian cycle (and what on earth that means)
Research shows that symptoms of SAD or other depressive mental health problems can affect the body’s circadian cycle, which regulates the patterns of our everyday activity in relation to day-night cycles. In other words: when we sleep, when we eat, and whatever else we may get up to in our schedules. Exercise can combat this and keep our cycles regulated (and, no, not the menstrual ones), boosting our energy and contributing to switching off the ‘hibernation mode’ we seem to slip into during these seasons.
Use your campus and surround yourself with positive people
The great thing about being a student is the endless opportunities we have around us to try something new. Whether it be a society, sport, or volunteering, each come with a truckload of socials around the clock during term time. If you’re beginning to experience SAD symptoms for the first time at uni, remember that the stress of a new environment and homesickness will also contribute.
As daunting as it may seem, try to find at least one event going on around campus that you tag along for to scope out the society or club. Even if it’s a one-time thing, getting a refreshing change of scenery and meeting some like-minded people instead of giving in to the comfort and isolation of your room can be a great way to get yourself out of your funk and you’ll almost always find yourself better off for it.
Making new friends and dedicating time to your interests can be a form of self-care which allows you to manage low moods and lethargy, effectively keeping Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay.