Simple strategies to help you beat the seasonal blues
Winter blues kicking in? Forget hibernating – help to overcome seasonal affective disorder can begin at home.
The sun is low in the sky, the days are shorter and design student Rachel Holland, 24, is feeling the effects of less exposure to sunlight.
She is eating more, feeling fatigued and is less inclined to socialise or exercise. “I’m even finding it hard to be motivated about my university studies,” Rachel says.
The “winter blues” may not be a medical condition, but many Australians report changes in mood as the cold weather sets in.
A survey of 1005 Australians found 54 per cent experienced increased difficulty waking up in the morning in winter compared with warmer months.
The McCrindle survey, in June 2015, also found 35 per cent felt down or depressed in winter, a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Clinical psychologist Professor Leon Lack says SAD is more common in the northern hemisphere.
“Nevertheless, I think there is some evidence that seasonal affective disorder is a real concern in Australia,” Professor Lack says. “There are a lot of clinical symptoms of it; not just mood depression, but increased appetite, increased weight gain and less energy.”
His work at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health shows that many people have difficulty maintaining a synchronised sleep period during winter because of the reduced light.
“Getting morning light on a consistent basis is very important for these types of people and probably for most people,” Professor Lack says.
A McCrindle survey in June 2015 found 35 per cent felt down or depressed in winter, a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Reset your body clock
Light therapy boxes have been used for years to treat seasonal affective disorder.
But Professor Lack and Dr Helen Wright, his colleague, have developed a cheaper and more portable way to deliver light therapy using LEDs.
Professor Lack says their Re-timer light therapy glasses can be worn for 30 minutes a day to treat SAD, jet lag and sleep disturbances caused by shift work.
The glasses, yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, are available at re-timer.com for $299.
Get your glow on
Interior designer Meredith Lee says people often forget the importance of light when designing their houses. “People tend to just put in downlights everywhere,” she says.
Getting as much northerly light as possible and avoiding the intense westerly sun is desirable.
“The easterly light can be quite nice, particularly on winter mornings, to brighten your mood on a winter’s day,” Meredith says.
If a room is naturally dark, add light and drama using different lighting sources, mirrors, colour and metallic finishes. Have a range of wall and ceiling lights, and lamps to suit your mood and use of the room. Go for warm, white light bulbs.
Keen to know more about the seasonal blues? Tune into our House of Wellness radio podcast to hear the team discuss natural ways to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Written by Blanche Clark