SAD (seasonal affective disorder) affects around 4% of the population, though a far greater number report feeling low during the colder months. Aptly named SAD, sufferers may experience a decline in mood, energy and feelings of despair with the change of season. Alternatively called winter depression (or the less clinical 'winter blues'), these symptoms generally coincide with shorter days and gloomier weather, but summertime sadness is not unheard of.
Reduced exposure to the sun, thanks to fewer daylight hours and higher rainfall, has a direct impact on the amount of serotonin released into the brain. Although the nights have slowly been drawing in since the solstice, the downturn in weather has made winter nights feel that much closer. Coinciding with the promise of more months of coronavirus restrictions, the change of season has brought with it a just sense of malaise.
We know now that coronavirus spreads best indoors, between people at close quarters, which is devastating news for those who rely on cosy corners, the thrill of live music and consistency of the gym to get through winter. These amenities are more readily available than they were in spring, but anxiety about the virus remains high - as does the infection rate.
Societies have always looked to winter festivals as an antidote to the punishing cold and solemn dark. Ceremony, family and togetherness are the place we'd normally go to relieve feelings of sadness. We'll still have bonfire night, Christmas, Diwali and Hanukkah, but they'll likely be far more subdued affaires than in previous years.
So what can you do to offset SAD in the face of a winter lockdown?
For one, consider investing in a light that replicates daylight. If you're suffering from lack of sunlight, light therapy (or phototherapy) works directly on the source of the issue. Some alarm clocks are designed to replicate sunrise, filling your room gradually with light so you wake up naturally and (hopefully) in a good mood.
The 'winter blues' is a common affliction; not a clinical disorder, but if you're really concerned about your mental health or the mental health of those around you, make an appointment with your GP. They may be able to refer you to a specialist, and can offer SSRI medication to give you the boost you need to get through the worst of winter.
Take advantage of ersatz working patterns by taking regular breaks throughout the day. Whether you're in your normal workplace, not working or working from home, the way you spend your day has probably shifted. One thing 2020 has shown is that work is not set in stone. If millions of office workers can turn to remote working overnight, workplaces can be made see the benefit of staff taking regular 5 minute breaks in the daylight. If this sounds indulgent, you're likely to be more productive and less likely to take sick days, according to research from the WHO.
Lush Indoor Plants
We truly believe that filling your environment with lush, vibrant vegetation from tropical climates will help boost your mood while the trees outside turn brown and drop their leaves. See what's new here.