As the days shorten and the weather drops, many people find their mood takes a hit too. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is widespread this time of the year. Less sunshine and frosty mornings can lead to feelings of sadness and apathy, as well as a decrease in motivation. Though it is an annual occurrence, it often comes as a shock to the system.
It is important to understand that SAD is common. The ‘winter blues’ start to creep in around May and can hang around as long as September. It is during this time that we are prone to shifting habits. Whether it is choosing a sleep in over a morning gym class or walk, or opting for a cosy night in on the couch instead of going for a run, the urge to forgo exercise in favour of the indoors is certainly strong. However, medical professionals maintain that in preventing and alleviating the presence of SAD, exercise and small behavioural changes are key.
Doctors suggest heading outside and getting some exercise, especially in the morning as a way to keep SAD at bay. Specifically, 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, and 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight is recommended each day to help alleviate feelings of low mood. Physical activity is a proven form of mood-boosting medicine. Endorphins remain long after the exercise session is complete and aid in setting you up for a positive and productive day. Moreover, data demonstrates that those who exercise throughout winter have lower rates of recurrent depression, compared with those who do not:
There is mounting evidence that suggests exercise is an effective treatment method for people suffering from acute and chronic mental illness, with some studies suggesting that exercise is just as effective, if not more effective than pharmacological intervention in alleviating depressive symptoms (Exercise Right 2017).
While a particularly chilly morning can leave you wanting to hit snooze, scheduling in time for exercise, even if it is just a quick walk, has a wealth of benefits. Making the decision to move your body at some point each day is proven to have a positive impact on the mind.
Quick Tips for finding motivation during the winter months:
- Dress for the weather: “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes” (Norwegian mantra).
- Move Indoors: apps and online workout videos make exercising from the comfort of your home a breeze.
- Engage your friends: take your coffee to go and catch up on a walk instead.
- Self-care: make time for you.
- If in doubt seek professional help: reaching out to a professional is always recommended.
Credits: Image courtesy of wikihow