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Mental health can take on many forms, however seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is one that is directly linked with the onset of winter. SAD can range from persistent low moods to depression, and it typically comes on and begins to ease off at around the same time every year.
During this time people who have SAD report feeling lethargic and moody.
In more serious cases, though, people with SAD can report feeling symptoms of depression right through until the beginning of the summer months.
As mental health awareness continues to grow, people are urged not to simply brush off any symptoms they have as simply “winter blues”.
The NHS advises: “You should consider seeing a GP if you think you might have SAD and you’re struggling to cope.”
While seeing a professional is the absolute best way to address your mental health if you feel unable to cope, there are also some natural methods you can employ to try and boost your mood on days when you are experiencing low mood.
Get your body moving.
When you’re feeling down, it can seem like an almost impossible task to get up and exercise.
However, even the smallest movement can encourage your body to release feel-good hormones known as endorphins.
NHS GP Dr Alan Cohen, who has a special interest in mental health, said: “Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it.
“Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.”
The NHS states that regular exercise “can boost your mood if you have depression, and it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression”.
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Try to get as much light as possible.
Research has found that spending more time outdoors on sunnier days can increase your serotonin and may keep SAD at bay.
SAD lamps can be used, which work to mimic the sun, potentially boosting vitamin D levels.
The NHS recommends trying to get as much natural sunlight as possible, adding “even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial”.
It also suggests making your work and home environments light and airy and sitting by windows when indoors.
Concentrate on your breathing.
While breathing may be something you don’t often think about, your breathing patterns can become rapid or uncomfortable – particularly when stressed or feeling anxious.
In these moments, Samantha Hadidi, health Coach and breathwork expert, recommends focusing directly on your breathing.
She said: “We often have very little time for nourishing and nurturing self-care so we’re constantly in fight or flight mode or our ‘stress mode’.
“Breathwork and meditation is a simple and easy way to address that. It’s a really quick thing to do that can bring you straight out of that fight or flight mode.”
Meditation, she says, can also help to reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Step away from the phone.
Whether it’s a seemingly never-ending to-do list or simply the worries of daily life, many people can find themselves feeling overwhelmed.
This is a form of stress that over time can lead to burnout, which is why it is important to find ways of relieving your mind and body.
Health Coach, Natalie Ferrigno recommends setting boundaries when it comes to our technology.
This is particularly true if you are feeling overwhelmed by social or work obligations.
Ms Ferrigno said: “We all have phones and we all feel like we need them and want to use them all the time.
“There’s nothing wrong with switching your phone to driving mode.
“No one knows that you’re actually not driving and you can have that one hour to do what you need to do, uninterrupted.”
Furthermore, getting enough sleep is also vital for mental health.
According to Ms Ferringo, switching your phone off at night could be key.
“Or switch it off at night. Have an hour before bed where you don’t look at your phone.
“This will help you to sleep and have some quality time with your partner or family.”
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch.
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