It's been a pretty lousy winter so far! Not even a glimpse of a snowflake, torrential rain, wind, but barely cold enough to even feel like winter. I'm a big fan of winter. After 9 years living in Texas, I appreciate the cold more than most. I love a thick jumper, hot soup, crisp walk in the frost, and any excuse to continue drinking mulled wine until Easter. But this winter has certainly not delivered, and I find myself experiencing some symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
a loss of pleasure or interest in every day activities
feelings of despair guilt and worthlessness
low self esteem
feeling stressed or anxious
a reduced sex drive
becoming less sociable
Other symptoms include; being less active than normal, feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to wake up in the morning, finding it difficult to concentrate, having an increased appetite and cravings for carbohydrate rich foods.
I'm certainly more lethargic, craving carbohydrates, feeling less sociable and losing interest in daily activities I normally enjoy.
So I today, as the sun was out and it actually felt like winter, I decided to get out in the garden and 'potter'. I've not been out in the garden for some time due to the horrendously wet weather, and it was so good to be outside, in the sun shine, surrounded by birds and looking at the all the bulbs that have sprung up since I planted them last Autumn. I felt renewed when I came back inside to warm up.
So here is my list of top tips to combat SAD without taking pills!
Get outside- Don't stay cooped up in the warm when you feel low, as SAD is often triggered by a lack of natural light and Vitamin D, which we absorb from sunlight. Even if the sun isn't shining, it's good for your wellbeing to get out of the house and into the fresh air. A break from the same 4 walls puts things into a different perspective and helps you reconnect with the seasons and your surroundings. It's a good idea to get outside during your work day as well, taking a break from the office and having a breath of fresh air will help you stay more alert as the afternoon wears on.
Try 'Mindfulness'- When you're outside, trying taking a 'mindfulness walk', where you focus your attention on the details around you. Look out for birds, new growth on trees and plants, little shoots in the ground, and pay attention to what the season is producing. Don't forget to notice the smells around you as well! We're very lucky in the UK to have such different seasons; believe me, a perpetual summer loses it's appeal after a while when you're sick of sweating and having to shave your legs every day! Walking with purpose is good for you both physically and mentally, so get outside and take in what is going on today.
Bring the outside in- Open the curtains, let as much light into your home as possible. Try sitting near a window for a while to get some natural light on your bones, and bring some plants into your home. Maintaining indoor plants in the winter keeps you connected to nature, and is a great way of making your surroundings more welcoming and enjoyable to be in. They also help to recycle the air, keeping your air supply fresher and more oxygen rich. I've found lately that Lidl have some gorgeous indoor plants for a really reasonable price, and I haven't been able to leave with my shopping without buying at least one recently.
Eat the rainbow- You can boost your mood significantly by eating a good range of brightly coloured fruit, vegetables and nuts on a daily basis, particularly those with healthy fats, like Avocado and Coconut, and almonds. I enjoyed the most perfectly ripe avocado this morning, smashed up on a rice cake with a little salt and pepper. It was so perfect I had to take a picture!
Try to avoid only eating the winter comfort food classics, like hot stews, and satisfying starchy meals (as much as you may be craving them), as these tend to be lower in nutritional value and more full of things that make you feel sluggish and tired. Instead, choose a few days a week to eat like it's summer! Some delicious salads (I'll be sharing a recipe this week!), some spicy mexican fajitas with lots of fresh lime, coriander and Guac, or a super fruit smoothie. This is the time of year when our body and mind needs those nutrients the most, so pump yourself full of summer food goodness and you'll feel less SAD in no time!