How to get your ‘summer happy’ back
Dark mornings and soggy feet are enough to make us gloomy, but there are many ways to make the cooler, darker months just as joyful as the sunny ones.
Here’s another reason why you don’t need at £50 a month gym membership to keep your fitness levels up in winter. ‘This is important all year round, but never more so than now, when exposure to sunlight is so important,’ says Professor Lance Workman, an evolutionary psychologist from the University of South Wales. ‘Take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, at least three times a week, to get the UV exposure you need – ideally in the morning or at lunchtime.’
Get a hit of the sunshine vit
Vitamin D’s definitely having its moment in the sun, but why should you stock up? ‘The body needs sunshine to make vitamin D, as it can be difficult to get the amount you need from your diet – so a supplement can top up your levels and improve your mood,’ advises psychologist Ingrid Collins.
Studies reporting on the happiest nations in the world regularly note that Scandinavian countries – famous for dark days and endless nights in winter – are at the top of the list, which goes against how we intuitively think weather affects our mood. Scientists believe the high levels of vitamin D in Scandinavian diets may be why these populations remain jolly.
Tempted to cancel on that after-work catch up with your pals? Don’t be. Good conversation will fuel your mood far better than a night in front of the telly. ‘In many ways, it’s easier to be social in winter,’ says psychologist Anna Hamer.
‘Summer holidays, wonderful as they are, create havoc with work schedules, childcare and regular social arrangements. Many of my clients breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that things are “getting back to normal” in September. We are social animals. Schedule regular events to make sure you don’t fall into hibernation mode. Plan Sunday roasts, bundle-up BBQs, book clubs or fitness activities. Make the effort because you almost always feel better afterwards.’
Be a goal-getter
You don’t have to promise to run a marathon or get your dream job by spring. These should instead be markers that help you feel productive or you’re your creative juices flowing throughout the darker months. ‘The concept of “flow” is an important one,’ says Hamer. ‘Try to find something you love doing so much you’re totally immersed. It could be writing, poetry, a form of exercise or a new craft class.
It’s easier to commit in winter – there are fewer distractions and often we find we crave intellectual stimulation after a summer recharge. It’s a great time to think about the direction we’d like our lives to take.’
Keep it light
Just can’t cope with the darkest mornings? You could have SAD – seasonal affective disorder. The good news is that phototherapy light boxes are proven to help. ‘It works for 85 per cent of sufferers. You need one of 5,000 lux (a unit of illuminance), and ideally use it for an hour a day. They’re UV screened, so it’s not dangerous to be exposed to it for that long,’ says Professor Workman.