The excitement of Christmas is now behind us and there's still a long stretch of winter ahead until spring. The temptation is to hunker down indoors and hibernate, but our top tip for dealing with Blue Monday – and January in general – is to get outside as much as possible.
We may wake up a bit grumpy, feeling the winter blues, but as the day progresses we can begin to feel happier if we spend some time outdoors.
So many of us, in the depths of winter, get most of our light artificially from screens and desk lamps. But humans aren’t meant to spend so much time indoors. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers spending most of their time outdoors among trees and animals, or by water, in all seasons and weather. Could our health and wellbeing be compromised because we now spend so little time outdoors?
The shorter days of light drain us of energy, meaning some of us will experience seasonal lethargy, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and depression.
There is evidence that exercise outside can be more effective than antidepressants for those with mild to moderate depression.
There are several physiological and neurological changes that take place when we go outside which can boost the happiness chemicals in our brain.
Serotonin is a compound that carries signals between nerve cells and there is a link between the levels of serotonin in our brain and our mood.Time spent in the natural world and particularly in sunlight triggers an increase in serotonin.
Bright morning light can advance our circadian rhythms helping us to sleep better at night and also suppresses melatonin – having an antidepressant effect.
Sunlight also helps the body produce the immune-boosting Vitamin D, and being outside helps us breathe more deeply, get more oxygen into our lungs and chase away the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.
Top tips for letting the light in
- Open your curtains and window in the morning, even for just a few minutes, to let a blast of cold air in.
- Try and work near a window if you can.
- Have appropriate outdoor clothes – if you’re warm and waterproof you’re ready for any weather.
- Go outside a few times a day for a few deep breaths of fresh air.
- Take work calls/meetings outside where possible, if there’s no reason you can’t be walking and talking.
- Take a lunch break and get into the light, whatever the weather. It doesn’t have to be an hour, or even at lunchtime if that doesn’t suit your working pattern, but try to get out in daylight hours wherever possible. Having a break outside can make all the difference to your productivity.
- Make a plan to get out every weekend – visit parks, gardens, the countryside and beaches.
- Take a Vitamin D supplement. Experts recommend everyone does in winter.
- Consider getting a SAD light, which replicates daylight and can boost your mood.
Going outside and being in nature can reduce your anxiety and stress. There is scientific evidence that we feel calmer when we look at trees, for example.
Put fairy lights up, light candles, and practice the Danish tradition of hygge at home to get through the long winter months. When darkness is illuminated by a few little flickering lights it seems more bearable.
If you are finding things difficult LawCare is here to listen. We provide emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their families. You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at su[email protected] or access live chat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk.
(This item has also been published with LawCare on the Travelers website.)
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