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Keeping the ‘winter blues’ at bay

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With winter now upon us the days are shorter and many people are experiencing changes in sleep patterns, energy levels and mood.

As the days get shorter a lot of people find it difficult to wake up in the mornings, feel more lethargic, or crave carbohydrate-rich fatty foods, said Associate Professor Greg Murray, convenor of clinical psychology programs at Swinburne University.

Murray said the extreme form of this common pattern of lowered mood and energy in winter, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is recognised as a type of recurrent depression.

"While winter SAD is most common in the northern hemisphere and appears to be rare in our temperate climate, research has shown that around 1 in 300 of the Australian adult population experiences SAD-like symptoms," he said.

"There is a trend for Australians to report lowered mood and energy levels in winter compared to the warmer months, but there are many ways to ease the symptoms."

To help ease the winter blues Murray offers the following tips:

  • Ensure you get at least one hour of outdoor light each day, preferably in the morning.
  • Make an effort to keep up your social life. A decrease in social activities during winter can have an impact on a persons mood and energy levels. A Winter Solstice or Christmas in July dinner party could be a good idea. 
  • Keep well and active by continuing activities such as exercise. While more difficult to undertake in winter, it can help lift depressive symptoms. Consider a gym membership during the colder months.
  • The winter reality of increased need for sleep, and the presence of colds and flu mean we may not be as productive as we are in the warmer months. For some people, acceptance of this natural rhythm is an important part of winter wellbeing. 

"Although for most of us the mood and energy changes in winter can be addressed with these simple strategies, we should keep in mind that depression at any time of year can be difficult to shift and may require professional attention," Murray said.

(Source: Swinburne University of Technology: June 2010)

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Posted On: 10 June, 2010
Modified On: 28 August, 2014

Created by: myVMC