As we enter the autumnal months and daylight hours get shorter, it is common, especially for seniors and older people, to start suffering from the ‘winter blues’. Once there was just an understanding that wintertime can make people feel a bit down, but there is now scientific evidence showing why this season can have such an effect on our state of mind and mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a form of depression related to colder weather and not having enough sunlight, causing increased melatonin levels and lower serotonin levels, often resulting in low mood and low energy, problems with sleeping, and craving starchy foods.
The good news is there are many things we can do to help ward off SAD just as part of our daily routine, as well as gadgets we can buy to help with the condition. Here at Lifton Home Elevators, we have come up with five ways to keep those winter blues at bay.
1. See the sun
As SAD is brought on primarily by the lack of exposure to daylight, take every opportunity you can to be out of doors where you are exposed to as much sunlight as possible. Even on overcast days, the daylight will have a great benefit: helping your body produce vitamin C and serotonin, and lowering the body’s production of melatonin.
Ways to ensure you spend increased time out of doors over the winter months could be to join a walking or running club, get involved in a winter garden project, or to make the commitment to walk more, rather than driving. Even just sitting outside in the sun for your morning coffee when the weather is fine will give you a daily boost.
Incidentally early morning light is the best for energy levels and will help to regulate your circadian, or sleep, rhythm.
2. Light the home
As a sunshine substitute, artificial lighting levels in the home can also help to alleviate SAD. In the winter make sure that lights in the home are kept at a maximum during the day. Bright white LED lights that imitate bright daylight are thought to be the most effective lights to help with SAD.
It is possible to buy SAD lamps which are specifically designed to counter the effects of SAD by bathing you in bright light for an hour or two a day.
3. Keep active
Staying fit and healthy is a great way of fighting off the symptoms of SAD. The beneficial effects of exercise help to keep energy levels up, aid sleep as well as improving mood.
Find the right exercise for you, exercise or dance classes, running or swimming, and make sure you take part regularly, as 30 miniutes three times a week is the recommended amount.
4. Eat well
One of the symptoms of SAD is craving starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, and winter can make you want to hunker down and eat more food than in the hot days of summer. However, increased weight gain can exacerbate the effects of SAD, so consider your winter diet carefully.
Change your menu to suit the season so meals are hearty and wholesome through the winter, whilst still retaining all the nutrients you need, including foods rich in vitamin D, which can be lacking when there is less sunshine.
5. Get cosy
In contrast to advice to get outside and stay active, it’s also important to acknowledge the need to feel warm and snug on winter nights. Plan cosy movie nights, get a blanket on your lap, decorate with candles, or light a fire. Have a warm drink before bed, and make yourself feel wrapped up against the weather. All of these things will help to stop the cold from having a negative effect on your mood, and help you to feel positive about the winter.