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How to Look After Your Mood During Winter

seasonal_affective_disorder_winter_blog

It’s remarkable how the weather can affect how we feel, think and behave. Many people notice that their outlook can be partially influenced by the temperature, colour of the sky and how much rain or sunshine they get.

In the winter months, the colder temperatures, reduced hours of sunlight and vulnerability to sickness can naturally make us more likely to hibernate, be less active and slip into unhelpful lifestyles. This can mean our moods can dip more easily, without us even realising it. We may feel a bit more down, less motivated and find it harder to bounce back from moments of sadness.

While Seasonal Affective Disorder – a type of depression that occurs discretely during colder seasons – affects Australians less than those living in the northern hemisphere, it can still be helpful to acknowledge that winter can affect the way we feel. This awareness can help us be more purposeful with how we go about our day to day routines and make decisions with our mood in mind.

Here are 5 ways we can manage our mood during the winter months

  1. Increase opportunities for sunlight and exercise. This may mean rearranging your daily schedule as the sun sets earlier in the evening. Vitamin D levels typically lower in the winter, making us more prone to fatigue. Exercise generates endorphins and dopamine, so we may need to be more deliberate with producing these “feel good” chemicals in the winter.
  2. Strike a balance between different kinds of activities. While we might crave creature comforts or prefer to stay inside, resist the urge to engage in only sedentary activities. Plan your week out in advance so you can see if you are striking a helpful balance. If not, try to create a mix of being indoors and outdoors with a variety of physical activity levels.
  3. Form and keep healthy lifestyle habits. The colder months can make us more prone to spending more time in bed, eating foods that are higher in fat or drink more alcohol. Notice when you slip into these habits and make wiser choices to look after your body. This will also do the immune system a favour when colds and flus notoriously spread during this time of year. If you find it hard to change these behaviour yourself, don’t hesitate to seek support.
  4. Be flexible and creative. Regularly doing relaxing and enjoyable activities helps us to have a stable mood. Your usual interests, hobbies or sports may not be as available. Find alternative things to do and be open minded to trying new things. Being more intentional with socialising in different ways can also help.
  5. Practice mindfulness. When we’re less active than usual, it can make us brood, with more negative or worried thoughts going through our minds. Having structured activities can help us have other things to focus on, especially if we’re doing them mindfully. Mindfulness is about being grounded in the here and now, and attentive and curious about our experiences.

Many of us will find our mood can be affected mildly and temporarily as a result of the factors described that are unique to winter. However, if you find that your sadness won’t go away and is harder to shake, if feeling down is affecting your ability to do the things you want or need to do or if it’s affecting your work, study, health, relationships or home life, it may be that you’re experiencing something more serious than weather-induced changes to your mood. If so, please see your GP for a more thorough check up of your mood or use our Take a Test Tool to see how you are feeling. 

For more information and practical tips on boosting your mental health, check out our free Coping Tools.

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