As I was editing these rowan blessed photos from early autumn, I started thinking of how much I miss that golden time and how depressing the second half of autumn can seem when the clocks go back and we’re plunged into almost interminable darkness. So I thought I’d share some of my tips for managing seasonal depression during these gloomy winter months.
Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health professional but a person with a significant history of seasonal depression/seasonal affective disorder. These tips are not intended to replace clinical advice. If you’re struggling to manage your mental health please get in touch with your GP or mental health services in your area/country.
The first winter after I’d moved back to England was the worst one. I’d forgotten how the light all but disappears once it’s November and the clocks go back. It was like being plunged into a pit of darkness with no respite until winter finally receded and evenings came back to relieve the long night. Since then I’ve been vigilant about keeping the SADness at bay during these months of unending darkness. Here are some things that have helped:
1. Starting the day early – Even though I’m absolutely not a morning person, I’ve found that the days on which I wake up early, get dressed, and get out of the house are the days that my mood is at its best. If I can finish all my work before sundown and use the dark hours to unwind, I count that as a good day.
2. Maximising the amount of light in my surroundings – This was much more difficult in our tiny, two bedroom flat in Newcastle as the master bedroom was the only room that got enough light. Even then, I’d make sure to open the curtains as early as I could in the morning so that if I did want to have a lie down, I wouldn’t be brooding in the dark. I also replaced the blinds on the windows with light cotton privacy curtains so there’d always be diffuse light without people on the street being able to look in. Our bodies need light to be able to function, especially when it comes to mental health. Some people swear by SAD lamps that mimic full spectrum sunlight to supplement the meagre amount of natural light we get in the winter but they’ve never worked for me. Another supplement that’s been known to help is vitamin D which you can buy at any pharmacy or supermarket.
3. Making it hygge – If you’re going to spend a lot of time indoors – as we do in these winter months – it makes sense for that space to be as cosy and welcoming as possible. While I wish I could spend every day basking in front of a crackling log fire, that luxury isn’t available to me or most people in this country. I still like to have as many fairy lights as I possibly can in every room, along with cosy blankets, throws and rugs. Living in aesthetically pleasing surroundings isn’t just an internet fad, it’s a huge stress reliever and mood booster. I’m not a therapist but I speak very much from experience when I say that making my living space cosy with soft textures, twinkly lights and a bit of greenery does wonders for my mood in these dark months of the year.
4. Getting outside – It might be gloomy and dismal out most of the time but if you can wrap up warm and get out for some fresh air while it’s still light, it’ll work wonders for your seasonal depression. Even if you can only go out for a short walk or to the shops, do it! Your brain will thank you for it later.
5. Spending time out in nature – I recognise how privileged we are to be able to do this, but ever since we made it a priority to spend some time in the great outdoors every weekend, I’ve realised that it really helps my mood, especially in winter. Whether it’s spending an afternoon walking along forest trails or walking with Lila in the park (as we often did in Newcastle) being out in nature is a huge mood booster for me. There are so many colours to admire, trees all shedding many hued leaves, foliage like fire underfoot turning to mulch as the season progresses- being out in nature with my toddler almost turns me into a toddler again, wide eyed in wonderment at the sensory feast that’s late autumn falling into winter. Sadly, experiences like this aren’t accessible to everyone, especially those of us living in large, metropolitan cities, but if it’s something that’s readily available to you, make the most of it. You’ll feel so much better for it.
And even if there are days when you give in to the gloom and can’t bring yourself to do any of these things, remember that the sun will rise tomorrow and it’ll be a brand new day and a brand new chance to do the best you can. To quote one of my all time favourite bands, the best you can is good enough.
If you found this post informative or helpful, please consider making a donation to my Ko-fi. You can help support my work for as little as £3. Every little bit helps me create more content like this. Thank you for your support!