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Beating SAD in later life

05 September 2019

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As the leaves turn to golden oranges before gracefully falling to the ground, and the morning frosts creep across our window panes, we can see the effects of the changing seasons all around us. While bright, sunny autumn and winter days look beautiful, the shorter, darker mornings and evenings can often feel dreary.

The UK and Ireland are situated at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere, which results in large shifts in daylight hours between the summer and winter, particularly once the clocks have gone back. Shorter, darker, grey days in late autumn and into winter have been found to be linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. Often referred to as the ‘winter blues’, the symptoms of SAD usually present themselves or increase during the winter months.

The symptoms of SAD can include feeling lethargic or sleepy, a low mood, loss of interest in day-to-day activities, feelings of despair and weight gain. While the cause of this disorder is not fully understood, many scientists and healthcare professionals link the disorder to the decreasing exposure to sunlight in the colder months, which may affect the brain’s production of vital hormones including melatonin and serotonin that regulate the body’s internal clock, sleep, mood and appetite.

While SAD or the winter blues can affect anyone, there is a range of treatments and lifestyle measures that are recommended to help to combat the seasonal changes and overcome the body’s inner yearning to hibernate.

Spend more time outside

Friends walking through the New Forest

New Forest New Home

The mornings are the best time to get outside and embrace natural sunlight, scientifically proven to improve your mood and could even boost your metabolism throughout the day. While many of us spend our days indoors, indoor, artificial lighting is not a substitute for being outside in the great outdoors. 

Physical exercise

Whether it’s a walk, a swim or a class such as yoga or pilates, exercise helps to boost your mood through the release of endorphins; neuropeptides that increase feelings of happiness. Exercise also helps you to stay healthy, boosts your mood and keeps you active for longer.

Eat well

Eating Dinner with Friends

Colder, darker days can easily lead to a craving for carbohydrates and a tendency overeat. With many of us opting for rich, hearty home cooked meals, it is important to try and eat a balanced diet, bringing in lots of fruit and vegetables and staying hydrated by drinking water. Over the winter months, the body’s level of vitamin D can be lower, so make an effort to include vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, cheese and eggs or consider taking supplements. Keep cosy with hot drinks such as herbal or fruit teas, warm honey and lemon, or treat yourself to a hot chocolate.

Create a cosy home environment 

Feeling warm, cosy and comfortable can greatly reduce the effects of SAD. Consider wrapping up in warm, comfortable clothing and pick up nice blankets and throws to keep around the home. Turn up the heating and light some candles to create a warm and ambient space. Decorate your home with ornaments, photos and paintings that bring a smile when you look at them and occupy your mind with creative hobbies such as reading, painting, sewing, knitting, card games or crafts.

Live in the light 

Sitting in front of a light box, which produces very bright light to mimic daylight for half an hour to an hour whilst enjoying an everyday activity such as reading or watching television can help to trigger the brain to increase melatonin hormone levels. You can also get dawn-simulation alarm clocks, which are designed to gently wake you up using increasing levels of light, rather than a harsh sound. 

Surround yourself with community

A support network of friends, family or neighbours can help to keep you feeling happy and energised. While you might feel less sociable in the winter months and not feel that you have the energy to go out and about, making an effort to go on trips out with friends or arranging to have dinner and a catch up could dramatically increase your mood and keep you busy. 

Surround yourself with a friendly community by considering a PegasusLife home. With communal lounge spaces and a range of wellbeing facilities, our apartments and homes offer you a lifestyle that ensures they are a great place for you to spend not just the winter months but the whole year.

Book a tour of a PegasusLife development near you today.