March is that time of year when, hopefully, the winter months are beginning to be behind us and for a lot of people this can be a huge relief.
The winter months bring with them fireworks, Christmas and New Year’s but unfortunately, this magical time of year isn’t always wonderful for everyone bringing a sense of loneliness, stress and the ‘winter blues’. A lot of you may have heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that focuses on the winter months. SAD isn’t something that you instantly snap out of as soon as the clock strikes 12 on the 1st of March. Some discussion has been had on the idea of “reversed SAD” where people feel affected by changes in seasons rather than just the darkness of the winter months.
However, the spring forward to march doesn’t always bring the positivity that it promises. Even as the flowers begin to bloom, the days get a little longer and the mornings get a little lighter, not every cloud in the sky is gone. Despite the change in the year being present, it is not a positive experience for everyone. This can be due to the simple fact that any change is a change. For some people, every change can be a difficult adjustment. The expectation of spring in its bloom can often give the expectation that things will instantly be better, summer is around the corner and the winter blues are far behind. If only it really were that simple. Unfortunately, the change in the year doesn’t always bring an instant change in mood. It’s very important to remember that it is okay to feel this way!
Winter months tend to be darker and colder which influences our mood as well as our sleeping and eating pattern. You may not even be aware of it, but our internal sleep patterns are determined by light, when this changes in the winter months it is meant to help us feel tired and have lower energy, kind of like hibernation. This can be obvious when you find yourself struggling to get out of bed on a cold winters’ morning. Surely then, if this is the case the increase in daylight from March should make us feel more awake and generally happier, so why is this not always the case? In an ideal world, brighter mornings and sunlight would make us instantly feel better but it doesn’t quite work this way. These winter months cause us to miss out on a vital ingredient to function and happiness: Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is much more than beneficial to growth and calcium absorption. People with a vitamin D deficiency are up to 11 times more prone to depression than individuals who have normal levels. Light therapy has recently been explored as a treatment approach to both depression and SAD in order to increase light intake and vitamin D showing positive effects of a reduction in depressive symptoms. Reduced sunlight has also been associated with a reduction in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that is often known as the ‘happy hormone’. Despite the increase in sunlight, research has suggested that those who are susceptible to weather mood changes tend to have lower serotonin levels throughout winter and spring before they increase in summer and autumn.
So how can we get into Spring with a spring in our step?
Set yourself some goals.
Try setting what we call SMART goals, these are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. This is much more than saying I want to do something I enjoy more. Be specific, if you like to read then set yourself a goal to allow yourself an hour every day that you read your book and take the time to enjoy it. If an hour is too much and you’ll end up feeling disheartened if you can’t meet that, lower the time, be realistic. Life can get in the way of life and it is up to you to make sure you are allowing yourself the time to enjoy it.
For some people there are mixed opinions about what this really is, but essentially it is a way to keep you grounded in the present and focus on the here and now. Low feelings from winter can carry over but allowing yourself the time to concentrate on this day, in this moment can help you to see that change is happening for the better. If this isn’t the case, then it can allow you the opportunity to think about what you can do to make change happen for the better!
Give yourself time.
One of the most important and beneficial things you can do for yourself is to give yourself time. You’re only human and not one human feels 100% all of the time. Making time for yourself, especially if you find yourself struggling with the changes of seasons, can give you that little bit extra solace that you need. Allowing yourself to see that a bad day or a bad week doesn’t necessarily boil down to a bad life.