Wellbeing and the Weather
“There’s no such thing as good weather, or bad weather. There’s just weather and your attitude towards it. “ — Louise Hay
As with most things in life, the way that we perceive the weather — as either ‘bad’ or ‘good’ — has more of an impact on our wellbeing than the weather itself. Now, that’s not to take anything away from the very real condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the toll that the winter weather can take on our mood — but a little change in perspective can make a great deal of difference to how much power the weather holds over us.
It’s not unusual for shorter days and colder temperatures to make us crave early nights, longer lie-ins, and heavy carbs; it’s also par for the course to shy away from socialising in favour of cosy nights in (with a favourite boxset to boot). But is that the best thing for your wellbeing? Should we give in to our natural urges, or fight our way out of the wintery mire?
And if you do fall prey to SAD, can anything actually help — or is it game over until the summer sweeps around once more?
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. “ — John Ruskin
Do you think Ruskin was onto something? If you suffer from Season Affective Disorder, perhaps not.
SAD is a type of depression triggered by certain periods or seasons of the year. It can leave sufferers feeling low, lethargic, and less likely to stick to their usual routines. It is of course common to feel a little down in the dumps when the weather turns, but SAD is a whole different beast.
Some of the most typically reported symptoms of SAD include:
- Lower energy levels
- Difficulty concentrating
- An aversion to socialising
- Sleeping too much, or not enough
- Feeling more emotional than usual (sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless)
- Increased appetite
- Picking up more colds, infections and other illnesses
- Loss of sex drive
- Feeling suicidal
- A worsening of existing mental health problems
It’s not always clear what causes SAD in some people and not others, and when it strikes, it can be debilitating — but despite all of this, Ruskin really did have a point. All weather is different, and because of that difference, we can get something different from each change; something positive — if only we approach it in the right way.
Taking Positive Action for Better Wellbeing in Winter
You want to guard yourself against the ravages of winter — so take steps to do the things that make you feel great, and don’t let the weather stand in your way.
- Spend time outdoors: In the words of the great Ranulph Fiennes: “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Nature can do absolute wonders for our wellbeing, and so long as you’re dressed appropriately (waterproofs and wrapped up warm), the weather shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a woodland walk, an outdoor run, or family fun in the park.
- Stay active: Motivation levels can drop in winter, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself; the trick is to find an activity that you can take in your stride. Start with housework or a gentle walk outside, and build up from there if you feel up to it. So long as you’re not sedentary all through winter, you’ll reap the benefits of whatever movement you enjoy.
- Take you vitamins: We tend to plump for comforting carbs over summery salads throughout the colder months. The trouble is, a carb-heavy diet can make us feel even more tired — as can vitamin deficiencies. If comfort food brings you, well, comfort — have at it; just remember to take Vitamin D and B12 to give you a boost.
- Keep hold of your connections: Throughout winter, it can feel more challenging to get out and see people — but socialising isn’t the enemy. If a night on the town isn’t appealing, why not invite a friend over, attend a cooking class together, make time for a day-time stroll with someone you’ve not seen for a while, or have a virtual coffee date?
- Plan ahead to limit stress: Start your Christmas shopping early, finalise plans for New Year (even if that’s a resolution to stay home with a take-out), batch cook meals and freeze for those days when you don’t feel up to cooking — anything that will help to take the pressure off during those times when you know you’re more likely to struggle.
Not every approach will work for every person, but it’s worth trying a few to test what’s right for you. The changing weather can be a beautiful thing, so don’t let it hold you back. The day is yours to seize, and there’s always help out there if you need a little extra support at this time of year.