5 tips to safeguard mental health in winter and beat the seasonal blues
Here is the impact of winter season on mental health and expert tips on precautions to beat the seasonal blues
As the temperature drops and daylight hours dwindle, the winter season brings with it a unique set of challenges for mental health where many individuals experience a shift in their mood and well-being during the colder months, commonly referred to as the "winter blues" or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Understanding the impact of the winter season on mental health and taking necessary precautions can help individuals better navigate this challenging time.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Founder-Director and Senior Psychiatrist at Manasthali, highlighted 5 impacts of winter on mental health -
1- Reduced Sunlight Exposure: One of the primary factors influencing mental health in winter is the reduced exposure to natural sunlight. Sunlight plays a crucial role in regulating the body's internal clock and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. The limited daylight during winter months can lead to a decrease in serotonin levels, potentially contributing to feelings of sadness and lethargy.
2- Disruption of Circadian Rhythms: The change in seasons can disrupt our circadian rhythms, the internal biological clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Reduced exposure to natural light, especially in the mornings, can lead to difficulties in maintaining a regular sleep pattern. Disrupted sleep can have cascading effects on mental health, exacerbating stress and anxiety.
3- Cold Weather Challenges: Harsh winter weather can deter individuals from engaging in outdoor activities and exercise, which are crucial for maintaining mental well-being. The lack of physical activity can contribute to feelings of sluggishness and a decline in overall mood.
4- Social Isolation: Winter often brings a desire to stay indoors and hibernate, leading to increased social isolation. Limited social interactions can have a significant impact on mental health, as human connection is vital for emotional well-being. The combination of cold weather and a reluctance to venture outside can contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Talking about the precautions to safeguard mental health in winter, she recommended -
1- Prioritise Sunlight Exposure: Make a conscious effort to maximize exposure to natural light, especially during the early morning hours. Take short walks outside, open curtains, and position yourself near windows to increase sunlight exposure. Consider investing in a light therapy box, a proven method for mitigating the effects of reduced sunlight during winter.
2- Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: To combat disruptions in circadian rhythms, establish and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it's time to wind down. Minimize exposure to electronic devices before bedtime to improve sleep quality.
3- Stay Active: Despite the cold weather, prioritize physical activity to boost your mood. Engage in indoor exercises, such as yoga or home workouts, and consider joining a fitness class. If weather permits, bundle up and enjoy outdoor activities like winter sports, which can provide both exercise and exposure to natural light.
4- Combat Social Isolation: Actively seek out social interactions to counteract the tendency to isolate yourself during the winter months. Plan regular gatherings with friends and family, whether in person or virtually. Join clubs or classes that align with your interests to foster new connections and combat feelings of loneliness.
5- Mindful Self-Care: Incorporate self-care practices into your routine to prioritize mental well-being. This may include activities such as meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies that bring joy and relaxation. Pay attention to your emotional needs and seek professional support if necessary.