Don’t be SAD, beat the ‘winter blues’

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Photograph: Sammie Caine

With the first day of spring lurking around the corner but alluding us until the end of term, it can be easy to forget that February and most of March will find a lot of students continuing to battle those ‘winter blues’. With limited sunshine and excessive rain, you might find that you’re feeling a bit more lethargic, needing more sleep, or just not interested in your day-to-day activities that you loved at the start of last term (like all of those societies you joined during Freshers’!) and that’s completely normal. In fact, there’s actually a name for this: Seasonal Affective Disorder. The NHS refers to SAD as ‘winter depression’ because studies have shown that most people impacted by SAD feel ‘lower’ in the December through February months, when there’s not as much sunlight as the days are shorter.

But you don’t have to spend your winter months cooped up inside feeling miserable! Even when the weather isn’t as permitting, there are tons of small changes you can make to help you combat SAD. As an American from the rather sunny state of Pennsylvania, who gets copious amount of sunlight even when it snows, coming to the UK was a slightly drastic change, and I felt my mood fluctuate almost as soon as I arrived. But this isn’t my first time living in England, and this year, I came prepared. One of my friends back home went on and on about her new Himalayan rock salt lamp, and while I thought the idea a bit ludicrous, at £22 for two lamps on Amazon, I figured I couldn’t go wrong for a trial – plus, it’s a pretty addition to my desk! I now keep one in my room and one in my office. Essentially, the salt lamp acts as a natural warm light replacement for the sun. Turn it on from 9am – 7pm and I find that I’m more alert and focused. As a bonus, it also cleans the air in the room (scientifically, your computer screen and other monitors can release positive ions and the lamp naturally produces negative ions, which essentially cleans the air and gives an impression of walking outside after a big storm, when the air is fresh and clean) and is aesthetically pleasing, which helps with my chronic depression. During the summer, I won’t need it as much, but for the winter months, it’s certainly proved to be more cost-efficient than a SAD light treatment (which you can actually purchase online).

You don’t have to spend any money to combat SAD, however. The NHS recommends easy changes, such as exercising regularly (a good practice anyway) and maximizing your time in the sunlight when it is out and calling to you! They also recommend ‘talking therapies’, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which your GP can tell you more about) for when the sun just doesn’t want to come out for a week and you’re feeling a bit low. But I find that some of the best natural treatments for SAD come in the form of taking Melatonin (an over-the-counter supplement) and some Vitamin D in order to naturally raise your body’s levels of happiness. And if all else fails, just make sure that you’re able to get some social interaction on those difficult days, no matter how hard that feels! As the old idiom goes, the more, the merrier!