Beating The Winter Blues, Mindfully!

Written by Amy Jane Wood

As we fall into a new rhythm that brings darker days and colder weather, our mood can take a hit. For some it’s a sense of feeling low-spirited, but for others it manifests as a debilitating type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), which causes symptoms of anxiety, hopelessness, irritability and fatigue.

Research has shown that one in fifteen people in the UK suffers from S.A.D, otherwise known as the “winter blues”. Scientific studies point to a lack of the sunshine drug - vitamin D - as the culprit, which means levels of serotonin and melatonin drop and the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted. So how can mindfulness make a difference?

The first way mindfulness can be used to counteract the effects of S.A.D, is by helping us to build resilience - the ability to adapt to change and overcome the unpleasant things in our lives without being overwhelmed by them. Whether we’re challenged by low mood or cold weather, staying present and turning towards any unpleasant feelings with a curiosity and non-judgmental awareness can help to soften the hard emotional states that arise with S.A.D and strengthen our ability to bounce back in similar situations.

Likewise, mindfulness can help us to understand and embrace the impermanence of life. When we stay mindfully engaged in every moment, with whatever is arising in our thoughts, feelings and experiences - we gain an awareness that change is the nature of all things. Understanding the truth of impermanence can benefit us in moments of low mood, as it helps us to realise that these feelings will eventually pass.

The next tool we have in our mindfulness practice is the power of perspective. As the adage goes: ‘change how you see, and see how you change’. For example, instead of directing our focus on what is lacking over the winter – warmth, sunshine, nature in bloom – we can choose to shift our awareness to see its gifts. A time of endings opens the door for self-reflection, and the slower pace brings with it an opportunity to rest and recalibrate. A conscious change in perspective, if we practice it often enough, can become embedded in our brain thanks to neurological plasticity.

We can extend this sense of wellbeing even further by creating a daily or weekly gratitude list. From warm drinks and woolly socks, to the simple joy of having a bed to sleep in at night – there are countless things to be grateful for over the winter months. We can use gratitude as a buffer against negative attitudes and mind-sets by bringing our awareness to the good things in life and taking the time to savour them.

Finally, since mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with self-compassion, adopting a regular self-care practice over the winter months can also help to remedy a low mood. Ask yourself what can you do to make yourself feel good? Nurturing habits, such as long walks outdoors, warm baths and nourishing meals can all take the edge off feelings of anxiety and depression that are associated with S.A.D.

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MEDITATION:

Changing Seasons Meditation

Body Scan

COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

8-Week Mindfulness Course

Mindfulness One-Day Workshop

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