You may have noticed in the media that there are a lot of things now highlighting how many weeks or how many days we have until Christmas, even the shops have started stocking Christmas goodies! I don’t know about you, but I am still in the summer mindset in my head, that is, until I wake up early in the morning and it is looking gradually darker and foggy outside.
Christmas, and winter as a whole, is like marmite – people either seem to love it or hate it. Some people may love the idea of being in the house on a cold dark night, warm and cozy, eating comfort food and drinking mulled wine. This may sound great, but the reality can be very different for many people. Christmas has traditionally been a time for family and a lot of the advertising and promotion, as well as the focus of society as a whole, at this time of year is directed at ‘families’. It is for this reason, that this can also be a time of year that people will really miss loved ones that are no longer with them, or maybe grieve more for relationships that have ended. As expected this can then increase people’s anticipation of this sadness and so they may start to dread Christmas and the winter months in general.
The Times states,
“The psychological impact of having nobody to talk to or express concern about you is bad enough. But what has also had a profound impact on us is the medical research, which shows loneliness has a major impact on physical health too. Some studies show it is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
There is a psychological impact on all of us at this time of year, although often subtle, due to the fact that we have less hours of daylight. As humans, we are all affected to some extent by the changes in the light and seasons. This may only impact us mildly, such as eating more comfort food, and feeling more lethargic than we might feel in the summer months. It has been suggested that the sunlight can affect some of the brains chemicals and hormone levels, although it is not certain exactly what this effect is. One of the key theories is that the hypothalamus (a part of the brain), is stimulated by light and so a lack of light in this area negatively impacts the brain. The part of the brain that is affected is also the same part of the brain that controls our mood, appetite as well as our sleep patterns.
Some people can experience more than ‘winter blues’ and really find that they struggle to function with day to day living in the winter months, in actual fact this can start as early as the autumn. These people may be experiencing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
“For about 20% of the UK population, mildly debilitating symptoms of SAD cause discomfort but not serious suffering. This is called “sub-syndromal SAD” or ‘winter blues’. (Seasonal Affective Disorder Association)
There are many things that we can do to help ourselves in combating some of these feelings, reducing the winter blues. One way may be to make sure you are outside in the fresh air, even if its only for short periods of time, for example if you work during the day make a special effort to get outside on your breaks, walk around the block, just get outside!
Please note facts and figures quoted are taken from articles written in 2012 and may no longer be correct.
"Please note that this blog post was provided by Healthy Minds and although based on real people, different names have been used, where requested, by those sharing their stories."