As the temperatures drop and the snow lays its magical white tapestry outside, we say goodbye to our active lives in the blazing sun and hello to more cosy days at home. For some, that could bring in the winter blues. The bad weather, reduced daylight, and quieter social life can all contribute to us feeling down during the white season. There is even a type of mood disorder associated with this, and it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
To avoid SAD, the NHS recommends making certain lifestyle changes that will uplift your mood and instil some happy memories into the solemn winter days. These ideas will help you invoke your inner sunshine and feel great.
Just because the weather is a bit dismal, that doesn’t mean you have to put a break on your cycling adventures. Cycling promotes ultimate well-being, from keeping your heart healthy to boosting your mood.
It’s the latter that can significantly help alleviate symptoms of SAD. Reduced daylight affects the production of happy hormones, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, but cycling can help boost them.
Cycle magazine’s health expert and healthcare professional Dr Kate Hattersle commented: “Getting outside and exercising regularly is protective against poor mental health, and it’s a good treatment for those diagnosed with SAD. We all benefit from the healthy glow and endorphin boost we get after an energetic bike ride or a walk in the woods.”
When it comes to cycling, there are no barriers. Many avid cyclists choose to tackle the unbeaten track in winter. With the right gear and preparation, cycling in winter can be as enjoyable as in warmer weather. Moreover, the cold fresh air can be quite energising and cleansing for your body and mind.
If being in the cold really isn’t your cup of tea, cycling can still be a part of your life in winter. A turbo trainer can easily convert your mountain bike into a stationary indoor bike. It’s safe, stable, and caters for the ultimate indoor cycling experience.
More time at home means you finally get to explore the vast world of yoga, dance, and home workouts. YouTube is packed with videos you can follow at home, from a 10-minute morning stretch to a one-hour Island Dance Workout you can savour on the weekend.
Hop on a 30-day yoga challenge, such as Yoga with Adriane’s Revolution program, and see yourself getting stronger, with better mental clarity, aligning your mind, body, and soul. Fusing exercise with mindfulness, yoga is a great way to release any negative energy from your body and breathe in the new and fresh. It helps reduce stress, caused mainly by the disruption of the circadian rhythm and sleep, and promotes the production of happy hormones, a proven elixir for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
If you want to up your social contacts and the snow blizzards aren’t getting in your way, feel free to join a yoga class regularly or just whenever you feel like it. This is a great way to meet like-minded people and can easily lead to a hot chocolate or gingerbread tea with your fellow yogis after the class.
Turn SAD into happy with light therapy – one of the primary treatments for SAD. A light therapy box uses bright artificial light to make up for the lack of natural light. It’s recommended that you spend 20-60 minutes each day sitting in front of a light box, which you don’t need a prescription for.
Light therapy exposure activates cells in the retina connected to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain responsible for regulating circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle. Doing so promotes the release of glutamate (a neurotransmitter), which regulates melatonin. Light therapy helps synchronise the sleep-wake rhythms, thus reducing or eliminating SAD.
Whether you are affected by SAD or are experiencing occasional blues, winter can be a great time to up your well-being game and focus on boosting your happiness levels. Just like many animals go into hibernation during this time, winter is great for tending to your inner world while the snow gently falls outside. Grab a mouth-watering cup of hot chocolate and listen to what your inner self has to tell you.