Beating The Winter Blues

Do you ever feel sad during the winter months? No, I mean really sad, as in seasonal affective disorder. You might think being down over winter is just one of life’s little foibles, but it is actually a psychological condition recognised by the NHS.

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain responsible for regulating our mood, and a lack of sunlight over winter stops it from working properly. The outcome can be a low mood and in some cases actual depression.

There are, however, ways to combat SAD and keep yourself stimulated and happy during long, cold winter nights. Read on to find out how you can stave off the winter blues this year.

Gaming

The classic stereotype of a gamer is a grungy, teenage boy, but that’s not accurate at all. Anyone can enjoy playing games online, and recent statistics have shown that more than half of all online gamers across the world are female. This largely due to the rise in online bingo, suppliers now offer an increased number of games designed and marketed towards women specifically and surprisingly, the number of young online bingo players is higher than ever before.

There are such a wide variety of games available now across all platforms that your passion, no matter how unique, will be covered by an online game. On your mobile device alone, you have access to hundreds of thousands of online gaming apps that can help to boost your mood through the winter months.

It might seem contradictory to combat a seasonal disorder that is brought on by lack of sunlight and time spent indoors by playing a game, but it can really help. When we play games the reward centre of our brain is activated, sending the positive chemical serotonin coursing through our body whenever we achieve a positive outcome.

On top of that, many online games actively encourage you to communicate with your fellow players. Increased social interaction, albeit through a game, is a helpful way to stave off the loneliness and boredom that is a by-product of darker evenings.

Exercising

Of the four treatments suggested by the NHS to combat SAD, exercise is the easiest and most fun of the options. By the time spring rolls around, almost every man and woman in the country frantically run around trying to lose a few pounds or gain some muscle for the perfect ‘summer bod’.

Starting early and exercising over winter not only puts you ahead of the curve when it comes to summer, but it helps to lift your mood too. Just like gaming, exercise will encourage your body to produce serotonin,the chemical that controls feelings of wellbeing and happiness.

If you run, try to do so outside if possible. The added exposure to sunlight will also help to boost your mood, even if it feels like a million degrees below freezing. If you start exercising now and hit the gym regularly, you can also enjoy that second or third helping of Christmas dinner with a lot less guilt!

See Your Friends Or Family

It might seem like a really obvious solution, but so many people neglect socialising during winter either because of the cold or the early nights. However, meeting up with your friends and family, keeping your mind active and engaging in conversation is a terrific way to beat the winter blues.

Isolation is one of the biggest causes of mental health issues, so there’s no need to impose it on yourself at this time of year. There might not be many outdoor activities to do over winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and not socialise.

Going to bars, shows or for food is a great way to catch up with your friends or family. You can also look into taking up a new hobby together as a way to meet new people whilst also boosting your skillset!

Wild Swimming

What is the last thing you want to do when the temperature reaches freezing? Jump into an ice-cold body of water! Well, if you’re feeling the effects of SAD then it might just be the best thing to do.

Thousands of people across the UK have joined up to wild swimming groups that organise group swims in lakes, rivers or the sea during the colder months. Some are doing this as a way of socialising and keeping fit, but many are taking up wild swimming as a way to combat poor mental health.

Studies published in the British Medical Journal have shown a link between decreased mental health symptoms and cold-water wild swimming. Unfortunately, your first experience of being immersed in icy cold water will be just as uncomfortable as you’re imagining.

However, after just three minutes in cold water, your body temperature will adjust and you will no longer feel the same level of discomfort. Experts believe that this form of swimming helps your body to process excess stress hormones, leaving you to experience the positive mental health benefits of that for the next couple of days at least.

Even if wild swimming isn’t something you can envisage yourself doing for the long-term, it’s certainly a fun experience to try out just once and is a great conversation starter. If you’re interested in trying it out, make sure you find a proper cold swimming group and don’t do it on your own - be safe!

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