, December 07, 2021

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Winter is coming, and with it, depression


  •   3 min reads
Winter is coming, and with it, depression

When we think of November, we think of the approaching holidays, the warm drinks that warm our hands, and the orange leaves that fall from the trees. But what we forget is the drop in morale and motivation that comes with these colder days. Who hasn't felt like staying in bed on winter days? Along with the shorter days comes fatigue, bad weather and depression. An issue that affects some people more severely than others.

“Winter depression”, also known as SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — is a real illness that affects more people than you might think. And it is only in the last quarter of the year that this depression is most widespread, every year. It is estimated that more than 5% of people in the UK have been diagnosed with Seasonal Patter Depression. In London, this phenomenon is even more important among the inhabitants. According to a study conducted on 2,000 adults in September 2021 and reported by Micro Biz Mag, more than 11% of London residents suffer from SAD.

What are the reasons for SAD?

SAD is linked to the approach of winter, but why? Many researchers have investigated this question so far, but even today, the causes of this depression remain unclear. However, the NHS has put forward several theories on this subject. The most comprehensive theory to explain this remains the lack of sunshine during these shorter days.

Indeed, SAD could be due to a change in the biological clock: less exposure to the sun could result in a lack of light, that could lead to a deficiency in vitamin D. Such a phenomenon could cause a poor regulation of serotonin, a hormone which contributes to the feeling of happiness. Conversely, a lack of sunlight would cause the body to overproduce melatonin, a hormone usually produced by the body when it is dark to help people fall asleep. This affects sleep patterns.

A side effect that would explain why some people feel lazy and sleepy during the winter. In addition to the lack of light, stress, anxiety and negative thoughts are always found in patients with SAD.

Lack of light and sleep, and stress: what are the consequences?

Although most people feel less well and more depressed during the winter, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of SAD. This type of depression can be recognized by symptoms similar to common depression. It is characterized by a persistent low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities, strong irritability, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, or sleepiness throughout the day.

It can be diagnosed among patients sleeping longer compared to the rest of the year and yet still facing hardships getting out of bed in the morning. People who present a weight gain and the desire to eat carbohydrates may also suffer SAD. Carbohydrates are all the sugars found in food. They include sugars, starch and dietary fibre. They are found almost everywhere, in cereal products, fruits and vegetables, milk and lentils for example. Symptoms that are very disabling in everyday life for those suffering from that disease.

How to cope with Seasonal Disorder?

Recovery from depression often takes time, and it is difficult to find the motivation to make changes. The first piece of advice is of course to go and see a professional who can help you and follow you daily to advise you. However, other very simple advice can already have some effects.

You should get out as much as possible during daylight hours and expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible. Even a small dose of light can change serotonin levels and improve your mood. You can try increasing the amount of natural light in your home or sitting near windows. Regular exercise is also highly recommended. In London, there are plenty of parks where you can go running and get some fresh air. 30 to 60 minutes of physical exercise a day is recommended, but walking your dog or going for a walk can make it as well. Changing your diet can also be a good way to fight against winter depression, as well as learning or relieving stress and anxiety built up throughout the year. Anyway, you do deserve a little break to take time to look after yourself.

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