Mindset work and energetic awareness could help to stay positive through the winter months says Rhiannon Bates of Garnet PR

For many of us, the arrival of winter and its shorter days and longer nights means we are spending considerably less time outside. For some people the change in seasons passes with nothing more than a swap of sandals for boots, but if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it can have a far greater effect. 

The World Mental Health Foundation states that “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that the NHS estimates to affect approximately one in 15 people in the UK between September and April.”

The lack of daylight for SAD sufferers can lead to a reduction of interest in even favourite activities, struggles with motivation, and a general malaise. Some people also experience insomnia, anxiety or even depression as a result of the annual clock change and darker days. It’s also very common for sufferers to experience a change in sleeping habits and lethargy, all of which can feel severely disruptive.

Seasonal Affective Disorder poses a big enough challenge in normal times, but when we have had nearly two years of dealing with a global pandemic and continued uncertainty, the difficulties that the change in seasons brings can feel insurmountable. Outdoor activities become less accessible, healthy eating is more of a chore, and the worsening weather and temperatures are proven to have debilitating effects on our body and mind.

It is a well known fact that exposure to the sun and vitamin D has a lot of important health benefits, such as fighting infections and aiding in weight loss. Research demonstrates that there is a strong correlation between depression and a lack of vitamin D; the lower the vitamin D level, the greater the chance of a person having depression. What’s more, several studies have also shown sunlight to markedly improve our mental wellbeing and mood.

While it is always best to seek medical advice when appropriate, there are lots of things we can try at home to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, helping to put us back in control of our mindset and thwarting the feelings of anxiety, demotivation and depression. 

Rhiannon Bates, business coach and owner of Garnet PR, shares her tips on how to use mindset work to develop a positive outlook and challenge the negative feelings that winter can bring. 

Don’t go into your energy overdraft

Think of your energy as your personal currency; you need to invest it wisely, and you have full control over it. Spend some time thinking about your energy; how it is right now, what raises your energetic vibrations, what drains you? 

For instance, do you have people in your circle who perhaps drain your energy? I call these ‘energy vampires’ – the people who perhaps focus on negatives, who make you feel flat or even project their insecurities and worries onto you. It doesn’t make them bad people, just different from those who focus on positivity. 

You may not always be able to avoid them, but by taking control and recognising that certain people have this effect, you will be able to protect yourself from spending all your energy on them, which is especially important at a time of year when your energy may be taking a hit anyway.

Fill up your bank account 

Still referring to energy – it’s important to keep that account full so you can use it on the things you choose to. Recognise what and who is lifting you up, making you feel epic, unstoppable and giving you positivity! These people are a wonderful energetic investment, keep them close and lean into supporting each other and maintaining your positivity through challenging times. 

Take the time to learn what keeps your account full. It may be a certain hobby, spending time alone or in silence, or it might be rewarding yourself regularly. Nurture these so that you have enough energy stored up to help you get through any changes or challenges caused by SAD.

Get your thoughts out on paper with a morning routine

Practicing a morning routine really will be a game changer. It can feel a little challenging  or uncomfortable when you start but stick with it and I promise you, you will reap the benefits in no time. Setting aside 10-15 minutes before you start your day to really dig deep and see how you are feeling encourages you to really unearth what it is that you are feeling.

Start with these simple steps and then as time goes on you can adapt and change this to suit you. 

Start the day by writing down three to five gratitudes. If you are unsure where to start, then look at the simple things – Maslow’s first Hierarchy of Needs. Express gratitude that you have a roof over your head, clothes to keep you warm, and food to nourish yourself.

Then, move onto your focuses or goals for the day. These can be small milestones, particularly if you feel that your SAD is getting the better of you. Challenge yourself to make your bed, or eat 3 pieces of fruit, or spend ten minutes outside. I would say to try and write down at least two focuses or goals, but you can write down as many as you want; remember you are in control.

Next move on to your affirmations; make these powerfully positive statements and start with ‘I am…’ if this helps. Did you know that your mind doesn’t know the difference between conscious and subconscious, and so it believes what we tell it? Good or bad. This is why affirmations are a great way to really tap into your subconscious mind and start putting yourself in the headspace of the person you want to be. A few examples of affirmations…

‘I am in control of my day and how I spend my time.’

‘I am completely capable of achieving my goals for today.’ 

‘I am aware of my feelings; I respect and nourish my body and mind’

Feeding your mind with these positive statements will help you put you in a really positive headspace as you start your day, really helpful if you’re struggling with the demotivation and energy lack SAD can sometimes result in.

Finally, move on to journaling. Journaling is a great exercise to lean into your energy and feelings. Often the overwhelm isn’t as big as we think it is once we write it down on paper. We can have what we think is hundreds of thoughts rushing around our mind, but which might only come from a handful of thought seeds. 

Taking the time to write these thoughts down in a journal may make it easy to untangle them once the threads are down on paper. And don’t just limit this journaling to negative thoughts, write down your happy thoughts, your achievements and what makes you feel energised – then focus on doing more of the latter!

These tips are relevant year round, but really come into their own when used to overcome a challenging situation such as suffering with SAD. However, if you feel that your seasonal affective disorder is gradually getting worse, and the symptoms are starting to disrupt your daily life, it may be time to speak to a medical professional who will be able to guide you and help you explore other treatments such as light therapy, medication or talking therapies.