We don't need white ravens from the Citadel to know it’s winter in Canberra (apologies to non Game of Thrones watchers). The thick fog and blanket of frost in the mornings are more than sufficient confirmation. If the onset of winter finds you feeling lethargic, melancholy and craving carbs, you could be suffering from seasonally affected disorder which is delightfully abbreviated as SAD.
Don’t we all feel a bit like hibernating and eating comfort food when its minus five degrees outside you might ask? Well no actually! Depending on your constitution some people are enlivened by the cold. Hint, they’re the ones probably wearing shorts.
To be diagnosed with SAD, your symptoms should be noticeably relieved by the onset of spring and must have occurred for at least a two year period. SAD affects women more than men and is thought to be linked to a lack of sunlight rather than the cold. Whilst 30% of Australians report feeling a drop in their moods over winter it is thought SAD is rarer at around 1 in 300 Australians.
Curiously SAD is rare in Norway and Iceland even though the winter sunlight exposure is minimal, however Nordic diets are high in oily fish which is rich in vitamin D, the so called ‘sunshine vitamin’ which is considered to offer a protective effect. It’s also advisable to get some safe sun exposure in winter to boost your natural Vitamin D production and fortunately in Canberra even though it’s cold we usually have plenty of winter sun.
Even though I’m one to recommend adjusting the rhythm of your life in accordance with the seasons, if you suffer form the winter blues it’s advisable to resist the temptation hibernate too much. In fact its important to stay physically active and socially connected though the colder months. So resist the temptation to cancel your gym membership and stay at home watching Netflix.
Its also important to note that if staying engaged and active doesn't shift your melancholy then don't just put up with it, seek the assistance of a health professional that you trust.
Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stress, anxiety and depression.
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupuncture, herbal medicine and meditation.