Beat the Blues: Self Care Tips for Winter

The season of festivity, cosy nights in, and hot drinks is upon us, but as the days shorten and the temperature drops, you might find your mood does the same. For many of us, understandably, the cold and dark months can take a toll on our mental well-being. In some cases, this can lead to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Some studies investigating the cause of this suggest a deficiency in Vitamin D could be the culprit. Vitamin D is important as it ensures your brain is producing enough serotonin, which is a chemical responsible for regulating your sleep and mood. Although Vitamin D can be obtained from your diet, the primary source is sunlight, which is much more scarce during these darker months.

With this in mind, in this week’s blog, we have compiled some evidence-based self-care tips and treatments that might help you “beat the blues” this winter.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?


If you or someone you know experiences persistently low moods only during specific times of the year, this could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a form of depression that affects individuals during certain times of the year, most commonly in winter. It is generally characterised by recurrent depressive symptoms during specific seasons that may impact your daily activities. More specific signs to look out for include:


  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, often with a craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal


Tips and Treatments


Note: It’s important to remember to seek professional help if you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from SAD. A healthcare provider can provide a tailored treatment plan that aligns with the specific needs and severity of the disorder.


Here is the advice we found from the research:


  1. Look into your diet: Tryptophan plays a role in the production of serotonin and can be found in certain foods such as milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, oats, cheese, fruits, nuts, seeds, and bread. Oily fish is also a good source of Vitamin D. Consider incorporating these foods into your diet.
  2. Vitamin D: An over-the-counter Vitamin D supplement could also help prevent deficiency during the darker months.
  3. Dawn Simulation: Consider investing in a sunrise lamp, as this can help regulate your circadian rhythm. A study even found that those with dementia who used one showed elevated mood and improved daily functioning.
  4. Exercise: Regular physical activity can boost your mood and help combat the effects of SAD. Even a short daily walk can make a difference. Bonus points for exercising outdoors to increase your exposure to natural light.
  5. Maintain a healthy sleep schedule: Keep a consistent sleep schedule, avoid prolonged screen time before bed, and create a restful sleeping environment.


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Implementing prevention of seasonal affective disorder from patients’ and physicians’ perspectives – a qualitative study by Barbara Nussbaumer-Streit et al

NIMH: Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Importance of Vitamin D in Seasonal Affective Disorder and Other Depressive Disorders by Domina Petric 

Effects of a dawn-dusk simulation on circadian rest-activity cycles, sleep, mood and well-being in dementia patients by Vivien Bromundt et al

NHS Website: Overview – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)


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