Protect yourself from depression this winter

As the days get shorter and darker, millions of people all around the world notice a decline in their mood, losing interest in work, socialising and family lives. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically peaks in January and February, the coldest months, but people may start noticing changes in their mood as early as September, as the summer holidays officially end and people stop socialising outside as regularly.

Experiencing some drop in mood over winter is very common, with some studies suggesting that it affects as many as 1 in 3 people in the UK most years. However, 2020 isn’t a regular year and experts such as Norman Rosenthal, the South African psychiatrist who first described SAD or winter depression in the 1980s believes that levels of people experiencing SAD may be much higher this year for a variety of reasons.

During summer, the light and warmth which facilitated outdoor exercise, socialising and access to nature boosted emotional and mental wellbeing for many people in the UK as we emerged from lockdown. Forecasts of further waves leading to more lockdowns and economic uncertainty may combine with the effects of SAD, leading to many people struggling over the next few months.

Taking steps to look after your physical and mental health now are likely to help stave off the worst of the winter blues, experts say.  Maximising your exposure to natural light by exercising outdoors as much as possible, investing in broad spectrum UV mimicking indoor lights, paying attention to diet and sleep patterns and strengthening your social and community connections are all important factors to consider.

If you notice a shift in your mood or begin to think that you’re depressed it’s important to seek help. Evidence tells us that early interventions are important; taking action before the feelings become entrenched.

Hypnotherapy can be effective in easing the symptoms of SAD.  Clinical hypnotherapy takes a holistic approach, rather than just treating symptoms. Not only is hypnotherapy very effective for low mood, guided visualisations can help you experience warm and sunny days even when it’s cold, raining and dark outside. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between visualisation and real experiences, so your body respond to a course of hypnotherapy in a manner similar to that of a sun drenched holiday. Targeting negative and unhelpful thinking patterns and learning resilience skills can help depression to lift.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) has nearly 2000 therapists across the UK on its register. The NCH says that after sessions with a hypnotherapist you may feel more confident; more relaxed in situations that have previously challenged you. They report that many people say that they are calmer and that they have more clarity of thought – able to make decisions more easily.

Use the NCH directory to find a therapist near you.