Winter Drawers On!

Brr! There’s definitely been a chill in the air the last few mornings. But I have to say that there’s something very special about this sunny crisp, cold weather as we move through Autumn into Winter. I took the above photo of the beautiful River Test here in Romsey as I took our rescue dog Cara for a walk recently. I feel very grateful to have such beauty on our doorstep, especially when I think back to living in London with the constant traffic and noise whenever I stepped outside our front door. But it’s not always easy to see the bright side of things.

The clocks going back signals that Winter is around the corner and this, together with the change in seasons itself, can cause some people to feel low as we all prepare to batten down the hatches to get through the Winter.  With the onset of shorter days and less daylight, up to 20% of us can suffer with the ‘Winter Blues’, but up to 6% of the population may even be diagnosed with a particular type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder are largely unknown, however, there are a few possible explanations which include:

  • A lack of natural sunlight which has been shown to affect our circadian rhythm causing changes to our normal sleep/wake cycle.
  • A drop in Serotonin and Melatonin Levels. As we know, Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) which plays an important part in regulating our mood. This is a similar case with Melatonin, a hormone that our brain produces in response to darkness and which helps regulate our circadian rhythm including our sleep patterns.

So what can we do to feel better?

Well if you think you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a good idea to see your GP as they may be able to provide assessment and diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment if necessary (see the NHS website for more info).

But there are also other things we can do to help ourselves if we have a case of the ‘winter blues’  including:

  • Get outside, especially in the morning light as often as you can. But if it’s difficult to get out, try to sit near a window to make the most of any natural daylight. If you can’t get out, some people find special SAD lamps helpful as they can reset our circadian rhythm. Vitamin D supplements may also be useful to make up for the lack of sunlight in winter months.

  • Remember the 3 Ps which all help us to produce more Serotonin naturally and the more we produce, the happier we’ll feel and consequently the more serotonin we’ll naturally produce and so feel consistently happier:
    • Positive actions – any kind of movement (especially outside) or anything that you love to do eg gardening, singing in a choir, reading, puzzles, painting
    • Positive interactions – these can be in person or on line via Zoom, WhatsApp etc. The most important thing is making positive connections with others
    • Positive thoughts – these are the things we say to ourselves including gratitude, appreciation and generally being able to ‘flip’ things so we can see them from a more positive perspective
  • Talking therapies such as Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help reduce your anxiety, improve your sleeping pattern and help you to think more clearly and rationally about your situation and remember that Spring will be with us in no time!

Some people might cheer themselves up with Strictly come Dancing and the thought of Christmas, but to others these are definitely not something to look forward to! Which just goes to show that it’s not what happens to us that causes us anxiety and low mood, it’s our thoughts about the events themselves.

I can relate to a lot of this because unfortunately I caught Covid back in August and have been suffering from Long Covid ever since. So even though I have the beautiful River Test on my doorstep, I found it hard to appreciate it because all I could focus on was how unwell I was feeling, worrying about how much longer was I going to feel like this and would I ever get back to normal? (whatever normal is!) I was very definitely in the grip of my primitive mind which, as we know, tries to keep us safe by imagining the worst possible scenario.

But the good news is that we are not our thoughts and our thoughts can be changed. The past is gone and the future is simply in our imagination…cue for a burst of ‘Just my Imagination (Running away with me)’ by the Temptations! It’s not real. What if we thought …what if the best thing happened instead? Imagine that ideal future in vivid detail…feel it, see it, be there in your mind. Once we have a clear picture in our mind, we have something to aim for and it’s more likely to happen. And as Bloody Mary sang in my mum’s favourite film South Pacific:

‘You got to have a dream, If you don’t have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true?’

And I’m pleased to say that I’m now on the mend what with the support of my family and friends, some acupuncture sessions and in particular some wonderful hypnotherapy sessions which helped to reduce my anxiety so I could see things clearer and helped me to imagine a more positive future, a future in which I felt better….and now I’m delighted to say that I am very definitely on that path!

So remember that our negative thoughts are just thoughts and thoughts can be changed. Remember too that we get more of what we focus on, so imagine instead how we want to think and feel, how we want tomorrow to be – and before we know it, those positive thoughts have become a reality and we can see light again in our lives ..even in the depths of Winter!

If you would like to talk to me about any of the above or to have a chat about how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy might be able to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 07790 683403 or click on the contact button.