Most of us can relate to winter gloom.
It’s that creeping sense of despair and melancholy that sets in around the time the clocks go back.
Enthusiasm is sapped and is replaced by an inability to step foot outside the covers.
But while this is often brushed off as ‘winter blues’, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real, diagnosable condition brought on by the change in season.
For some, it goes way beyond feeling gloomy and triggers deep depression.
Although most common in winter, SAD can occur with any change in season (the cold and dark of winter can be just as oppressive as summer shifts in humidity).
A subset of depression, winter SAD is characterised by typical depression-like symptoms: a desire to oversleep (and disrupted sleep patterns); low energy and motivation; inability to concentrate; irritability; and overeating – specifically, carbohydrates.
Summer SAD on the other hand, is anxiety-based and typically manifests as insomnia.
What causes winter SAD?
The cause – though largely unknown – is thought to be to do with sunlight (and most commonly, lack thereof).
Insufficient sunlight affects our sleep routines (circadian rhythm) by reducing melatonin – the hormone responsible for sleep – preventing you from being well rested.
Lack of sunlight also causes a drop in serotonin – the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation.
So, if you’re feeling despondent and despairing right about now, there are scientific reasons behind it and you are not alone!
Who is affected by SAD?
SAD affects three in every 100 people in the UK, and women are four times more likely than men to be affected.
However, these findings rely on people self-reporting, so it’s likely many more wrestle with its effects.
Those with pre-existing mental health issues are also more likely to be affected by SAD.
Sufferers of bipolar disorder, for example, often experience deep depressive episodes in winter, and bouts of mania are confined to the summer months.
Can winter affirmations help with winter SAD?
Low mood breeds self doubt and winter SAD will likely see you feeling down on yourself.
We’ve written extensively about the power of affirmations.
These positive statements help to rewire your brain and change your beliefs.
Focusing on affirmations, specifically throughout the winter months, can help to soothe and reassure at a time when the world outside seems bleak.
As the darkness of winter sets in, use affirmations to find inner light
We’ve talked before about not forcing positivity, so be patient with yourself.
Now that you know winter is a difficult time for many, try to keep your expectations realistic.
If you don’t find yourself fizzing with enthusiasm when your alarm goes off at 7am and it’s pitch black outside, that’s ok and you aren’t the only one.
Winter affirmations might not change your life overnight (though, they also might), but they will subtly create small shifts and inspire new ways of thinking that can help make SAD more bearable.
Say your affirmations out loud or write them down daily, and remember that it isn’t a test.
Winter affirmations can take any form you want.
It might be best to start by sitting quietly and notice how you feel about the season.
Then consider how you want to feel, and write affirmations centred around this.
However, as we’re talking about winter SAD, finding the inspiration for this might be difficult!
If that’s the case, that’s fine. To help you on your way, here are some examples of winter affirmations to inspire you:
- I am in charge of my life and I feel happy
- I am warm inside even if it’s cold outside
- I am safe
- I deserve everything good
- My light is stronger than the darkness outside
- I can choose to feel content
- I am strong no matter the weather
- The season does not define me, I am in control of my thoughts
- I am allowed to rest
- Winter is a time for self-care and relaxation
- There is beauty in winter
To that last point, another effective way of doing winter affirmations is to think about the positives of winter.
Specifically, what do you like about the season? (And there will be things!)
If you take time to let your imagination go, you will find that there are aspects of winter you didn’t even know you enjoyed!
Need some inspiration? Here are some things we love about winter:
- Drinking hot chocolate in a warm space when it’s freezing outside
- Cosy pubs with open fires
- The Christmas lights of small market towns
- Hot baths (a perfect one for me, because we actively dislike taking baths in summer!)
Focussing on the positives of winter will help you find a new perspective.
Sure, it might not completely erase the unease, but it does act as a gentle reminder that there is good to be found and that there are things to enjoy and look forward to.
If you feel that your winter depression leads you to a specific set of thoughts – for example, maybe you put more pressure on yourself to succeed, or you feel particularly under confident in certain situations – try out our affirmations for acceptance and our affirmations for boosting self-confidence.
What else, besides affirmations, can help?
We believe in the power of affirmations, but there are always extra things you can do alongside them, when it comes to helping SAD:
- Exercise. It doesn’t have to be rigorous – just 10 minutes of yoga or stretching can encourage peace. Or, if you want to experience the benefits of winter swimming, we have talked about it here.
- Light therapy. You can buy light boxes specifically designed for sufferers of SAD. Doctors recommend a light of 10,000 lux for 30 minutes per day. You can also buy light-simulating alarm clocks to ease the horror of being shocked awake in the dark!
- Eat clean(er). That doesn’t mean strictly salads, but if you’re able to introduce more veggies into your diet you’ll be on the right path to mental wellness. SAD unfortunately sparks cravings for carbs, but all this does is make you more sluggish. Break the vicious cycle by finding a non-sugary food that you like – even if it’s just one item – and eat that instead. Eat it all the time, if that’s what it takes! Variety may be the spice of life, but mental wellness is more important than having a different daily lunch.
- Journaling during winter can help make sense of negative thoughts flooding your brain. Once they are on the page, it’s easier to consider them out of your head. Think of it as tidying your mind!