You might have noticed a lot more people feeling depressed in winter, or suffering from ‘the winter blues,’ even in sunny South Africa. Days are shorter, darker and colder and we’re generally cooped up indoors, now even more with National Lockdown. This can start to have an impact on one’s mood. Here we look at how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs and what we can do to combat it.
While some cities like Johannesburg and Durban can still enjoy gorgeous sunny afternoons, cities like Cape Town and other parts of South Africa are grey with regular rainfall. In winter, the sun rises in The Mother City around 8 am, while it pops above the horizon before 7 am in Durban and Johannesburg. These changes can make it increasingly harder to get out of bed and to get a morning workout in, adding the winter blues.
Let The Light In
A theory on how SAD works is based on shorter daylight hours. It suggests that light entering the eye changes hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, causing us to wake up. In winter, we produce higher melatonin, which may result in lethargy and symptoms of depression. Below are behavioural tips that form part of what psychologists call ‘Light Therapy” and are beneficial for getting more light into your life.
- Go for a midday walk
- Sit, work or read near a window
- On weekends, spend more time outdoors
- Replace your alarm clock with a dawn light. Set the light to a traditional sunrise time and slowly the light will brighten at your dedicated time in the morning, waking you up.
- If your home generally gets a lot of shade and is thus quite dark in winter, it might be worth investing in a daylight therapy lamp that mimics sunlight to boost your exposure to light.
Move That Body
Another saviour from the seasonal slump of SAD is to get active. Even if the weather is miserable and you don’t feel like heading outdoors, there are several ways to stay active in winter. Thirty minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week is effective against depression and is beneficial for healthy muscles and joints.
- Take a walk whenever you can during the day. Don’t forget your face mask.
- Have a standing meeting.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Check out free online classes that you can do from the comfort of home. Visit the Medshield Movement portal for free exercise classes or consider our ClickFit programmes.
If the winter blues are affecting your day-to-day life, speak to your doctor. If you need a quick mood boost right now, click here for five ways to lift your mood instantly.