Health

Ease winter depression

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5 ways to… help you cope with seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD).
Our symptom-easing tips to will help lift those winter blues

1. Get physical

A new study has discovered that doing several hours of exercise a week could lower your risk of depression – even if you have a genetic predisposition towards it. So it’s a no-brainer to dig out those trainers!

2. D is the magic letter

As in vitamin D. Research studies have shown that it could influence levels of serotonin, which helps control appetite, energy expenditure, sleep, temperature, mood, and social cognition – all of which can be adversely affected by SAD. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which obviously goes missing during the British winter. It’s also found in a small number of foods, including oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks, as well as some fortified foods such as cereals. But it’s hard to get the recommended amount purely from your diet, so to protect your musculosketal health, Public Health England recommend adults and children over a year old should consider taking a daily 10ug supplement, especially during the autumn and winter months. Try Boots Vitamin D 10ug (90 tablets).

3. Light up your life

You can get special lamps/light boxes that may help to keep your symptoms under control by simulating sunshine, which helps trigger serotonin release to aid with sleep and up your wellbeing. The dose that’s thought to be most beneficial? 5,000 lux (lux is a measurement of light intensity) hours a day. So, for example, you could try using a 10,000-lux light for half an hour each morning (studies suggest before 8am is best). We rate the portable   Lumie Vitamin L SAD and energy light.

4. Lesson your stress

Dr Norman Rosenthal – the man who first described SAD, in 1984 – explains that people have a reduced ability to handle stress when experiencing SAD. A sufferer himself, he recommends transcendental meditation– a form of meditation you do for 20 minutes, twice a day, which doesn’t involve deep concentrating or having to clear your mind. (Find out more at uk.tm.org).

5. CBT could be key

Cognitive behavioural therapy can help change the way you think about, and behave in, certain situations– for example, reframing your thinking about the winter months. But as NHS waiting lists can be lengthy, in the meantime you could try the Happify app (limited free use on iPhone and Android). Its science-backed activities and games borrow from positive psychology, CBT and mindfulness, to help overcome negative thoughts and build greater resilience.