Dealing With SAD and January Blues

Cozy winter still life: woman legs in warm woolen socks under shaggy blanket and mug of hot beverage on old windowsill against snow landscape from outside.

Christmas is over. It’s cold, it’s dark and it’s still winter. Along with the horrible weather, cold nights, and dark mornings many people experience a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. Without the glitz and glam of Christmas to look forward to, the rest of the winter months can seem gloomy. You may experience SAD every year, or it may be something you are experiencing for the first time. Either way it doesn’t get any easier. For many, the winter months bring with it low moods, lack of pleasure in usually enjoyable, lack of hope or increase in despair, and an overall feeling of gloom and lethargia [1] which can be particularly exasperated in January.

So, what can we do to improve our moods in the dreaded season? What can we do to ease the symptoms provoked in this bad weather? Well firstly, we must establish that SAD is present only in the colder months, and symptoms usually fade naturally as we move into the warmer months. So there is light at the end of the tunnel, though this doesn’t make it any more bearable. Here are some tips for dealing with SAD this January!

  1. Set goals

January is a great time to set some new intentions. It is a time renowned for goal setting, where people across the world are setting their New Years resolutions. So, if you are feeling a lack of fulfilment in this time, it is a good idea to go along with the tide and set some new goals. It will give you something positive to think about, and force you to have a positive outlook on the nearby future. It is important that you set goals you can stick to particularly if you are already feeling down, as we want to encourage morale rather than cause any further discouragement. Setting goals will give your January some purpose and allow you to have direction in the months to follow.

2. Keep rooms well lit

Light therapy has been found to improve the moods of those suffering from SAD. It involves sitting with a lightbox for a period of time (usually in the mornings). A specific light referred to as a lightbox, should be used, which blocks out harmful ultra-violet light. In addition to this, you should keep your room well lit to imitate natural sunlight.

3. Keep active

We all know low moods usually call for a day tucked up in bed, watching Netflix. But this is the direct opposite of what we should do when we are facing low moods. I’m not saying we completely neglect our need for down days. These definitely have their uses in rebooting us. But when the hours in bed become weeks and the weeks become months then that’s when we should worry.

The key to combating any low moods is keeping active. We should push through the feeling of low moods and getting things done, even when we don’t seem to be enjoying it. Even if it is just a trip to a local supermarket instead of using the local delivery service. Or a trip to a Pilates class instead of our intense workout regime. The sense of accomplishment that comes with completing our day-to-day tasks, particularly a workout, can release endorphins which can, in turn, improve our mood.

4. Lean on social networks/ Indulge in the festive activities

The winter season may bring cold weather and dark mornings/evenings but it also hosts the most festive time of the year Christmas. With that comes a proliferous of Christmas markets, pop-ups, ice skating rinks, and many other festive activities. Because of this, it is very easy to stay social in this season with so many options for activities to do with friends and family. Utilise this season to nourish your friendships and lean on your social network if you are suffering from the low moods associated with SAD. Although, it may not feel great to get out of the house and you may just want to isolate and withdraw. It is very important to push through these feelings as we are social beings and your self-isolation can only make low moods worse. Get out, book tickets, invite a friend to go see a Christmas film.

5. Do positive affirmations

As you may have figured out, or experienced, low mood is a common symptom of SAD. As a result, your thinking pattern may be gloomy and very negative during the months you experience this disorder. When experiencing low moods it can be helpful to practice positive thinking. This can be difficult when you start out, but it involves switching negative thoughts for a positive alternative. To kickstart your path to positive thoughts it can be helpful to use positive affirmations. This will be affirming positive statements about yourself, your life, and your future. It can be a helpful way of igniting your positive thought patterns. Remember your reality is what you create it, so if you can think positive you can hopefully start taking the steps to incorporate more positivity into your life!

Read more on elevating your mood in my book “I Will Sur’Thrive: A guide to elevating low moods”.

References

[1] NHS,Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), viewed 15th December 2021 <https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/&gt;

3 thoughts on “Dealing With SAD and January Blues

  1. This is a fantastic post.

    I have days when I don’t want to do anything, and that’s fine. I listen to my body and utilize that day as a rest day, and either by that night, I’m up and ready to start on tasks, or I’m ready to start the day the next day.

    To avoid becoming overwhelmed when you don’t feel like doing anything, instead of pushing yourself to complete everything, start with something that requires the least amount of effort. Then, if you want to, proceed.

    Personal hygiene can go a long way toward improving one’s mood. You’ll feel more alert if you take a shower, wash your face, brush your teeth, and drink juice or water. 🙂

    1. Hi Aleya, I am glad you enjoyed the post. These are all great tips that you have shared. I like to do most of the things you have pointed out also, and it really does help! Thanks for reading, keep posted for more mental health and well-being tips!

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