Many of us can start to feel slower and lethargic as we experience the shorter, darker and colder days of winter. It is thought that around 2 million people in the UK and over 12 million across Northern Europe experience the ‘winter blues’ (seasonal depression). This is characterised by low mood, poor appetite and periods of fatigue through the winter months of January and February.
In the modern world, it is easy to forget that, traditionally, society would have been living closely connected to the seasons. In contrast to today, Winter would bring a time of intentional change to the rhythm of life.
Living in tune with the seasons can help you to feel alive and connected to nature. Moreover, by acknowledging these changes can make us feel happier and more productive as we transition into each season.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that is related to seasonal changes. Symptoms include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure, irritability, feelings of despair, lethargy and periods of sleeping longer than normal.
The exact cause of this seasonal depression is not fully understood. However, there are theories that the lack of sunlight can interfere with melatonin and serotonin production. Additionally, it disrupts a healthy circadian rhythm. This is a natural internal process that regulates the sleep/wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours.
One of the best ways to beat the winter blues is to get active outside and immerse yourself in your surroundings. Research has shown that even just a short 15-minute walk is a great way to beat the winter blues. By exposing yourself to natural daylight, you increase essential neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Notably, these brain chemicals help to energise the brain and regulate our circadian rhythm.
Our cortisol levels rise in the morning hours to get us going and get us motivated for the day ahead. After this, they gradually decline as the day passes in order for us to prepare for rest in the evening.
Meditation is Key
Meditation is a powerful tool that we can use to increase happiness and reduce stress levels. It is an ancient practice made up of a wide range of techniques that all aim to improve our state of mind and promote relaxation.
Studies have shown that meditation can lead to increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain which is associated with happiness. Also, it can help to decrease activity in the brain’s areas linked to stress.
Lifestyle Medicine Advice
Here at The Mayfair GP, we pride ourselves on providing holistic care which has a huge focus on lifestyle medicine. To find out more about how you can beat the winter blues, get in touch today to book a consultation with one of our dedicated health practitioners.