Summer is over (or did it even start?!) so we all know what that means… Winter is coming. About a third of adults in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of depression that occurs on a seasonal basis), and women are 40% more likely than men to experience symptoms of the condition.

As a firm believer that we should do more to raise awareness of mental health issues and how we can support those who suffer from them, here are some ways you can help yourself or your friends, family and colleagues who may suffer from SAD in the coming months:

1. Make the environment brighter.

In Winter, our bodies crave more daylight. Open blinds and curtains, trim back tree branches, and sit closer to windows to soak up those elusive rays of sunshine and make the very most of the natural light. You could also try getting a light box – it has been shown that sitting next to a light box for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as taking antidepressants!

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2. Eat a balanced diet.

The colder it gets, the more we crave those stodgy ‘naughty’ foods like mac ’n’ cheese or cakes and sweets. These carby foods make us happy temporarily, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression as your blood sugar spikes and dips. Eating certain foods, like dark chocolate, avocado, salmon, spinach, and turkey, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety.

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3. Exercise.

Studies have found that walking fast outside for about half an hour every day, or an hour a day three times a week, can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Additionally, if you can exercise in daylight, or under bright light, it has been shown to relieve symptoms of SAD more than exercising under ordinary light.

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4. Listen to music.

Listening to upbeat or cheery music has been shown to significantly improve people’s mood in both the short and long term, as it releases dopamine.

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5. Plan a holiday.

Simply the act of planning a holiday can trigger a significant increase in overall happiness. Not only do you have something to look forward to, but holidays reduce stress levels. In fact, just three days into a holiday you’ll begin to feel well-rested, less anxious, and in a better mood.

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6. Help others.

Studies have shown that performing acts of kindness, whether for the world or for others, is linked to feeling happy or an improvement in mood. In comparison, people who treated themselves did not see any improvement in well-being or positive emotions. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ‘treat yo self’ once in a while though, just bear in mind that perhaps the best way to show yourself some self-love is to treat someone else.

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7. Get outside.

I know going outside and having to brace yourself to face the elements doesn’t sound fun, but the benefits are huge: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels. And you can always grab a hot chocolate with a friend while you’re out! 😊

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Charlotte Robinson, Administrator