Why We Experience Low Mood In Winter & How To Embrace The Change In Season

10 Nov 2022

As the nights draw in and the weather becomes more miserable, the transition from summer into winter can lead to low mood and a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

Symptoms of SAD can include low energy, poor focus, losing interest in things you previously enjoyed, withdrawing socially, feeling more irritable, frustrated and anxious than normal, an increased appetite and cravings for carbs and sugar. If SAD is the culprit, these symptoms will typically appear or become worse at certain times of year (typically winter). It’s often called the “winter depression” for this reason. 

Whether or not you experience SAD, the onset of winter can increase anxiety and leave you feeling low and sluggish. 

You are not alone if you experience a dip in mood and energy as winter sets in and as you read this blog post, you’ll understand why. But at the same time, there is a lot we can do to change how you may feel at this time of year and even embrace the transition. 

What Causes Low Mood In Winter?

It’s not a coincidence that a change in season can hit us so hard. 

It can have a physiological impact on both the mind and body. The shorter days and reduction in natural sunlight can affect our levels of serotonin, dopamine and vitamin D and impact our mood, appetite and sleep patterns. 

Serotonin and dopamine are linked to pleasure and happiness. When we have less of these neurotransmitters, it’s more likely that we will experience low mood and struggle with focus and motivation. 

A hormone called melatonin has a role to play too. Under normal circumstances, melatonin is produced by the brain around 2 hours before sleep, which is why we should feel drowsy as we get closer to bedtime. There’s some evidence that in SAD, melatonin can be produced in the daytime too, which can result in sleep problems, lethargy and daytime drowsiness. This isn’t necessarily the sole cause of the “winter blues” but can be a factor. 

Changes to the clocks can have an impact too. When the clocks go forwards or backwards, it can wreak havoc on your biological clock and sleep cycles. 

As we move towards the end of another year, there can be a lot of pressure to achieve goals and this can add more stress and anxiety. You may not be consciously aware of this pressure but it can be another factor in how we feel at this time of year. 

How To Improve Low Mood In Winter & Enjoy The Change In The Seasons

The changes in the seasons can encourage physical and emotional changes but we can counteract these with strategic self-care. 

Self-care is important all year round but it’s particularly crucial when the seasons change. The key pillars to focus on are your nutrition, movement, sleep, and relaxation. And as you’ll see later on, hypnotherapy can build on this self-care to help you to manage this time of year with calm and confidence. 

Nourish Your Mind And Body With Whole Foods

A diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and other whole foods can provide nutrients that reduce the impact of the change in seasons. 

Folate and other B vitamins are important for dopamine and serotonin production and fibre is linked to changes in neurotransmitter concentrations too. Eat plenty of protein too – the amino acids play a key role in dopamine production. 

Healthy fats support the brain and can help your focus and mood. But avoid unhealthy trans fats that are likely to have the opposite effect.

When you eat matters too. Regular meals can stop your blood sugar from fluctuating and avoid further drops in energy and mood. 

Get Outside Every Day

The colder temperatures can mean that it’s much more tempting to snuggle up indoors but braving the elements is a mood booster. It increases serotonin levels and can help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. If you can get outside soon after waking, it can improve sleep – which is such a big factor when it comes to mood and energy! And combining it with exercise on a winter walk boosts dopamine levels too. 

Use Sun Lamps 

We can counteract the lack of natural sunlight by mimicking natural light. A sun lamp is a great way to do this. It increases the production of serotonin and reduces the production of sleep-inducing melatonin. If it’s used early enough in the day, this combination can help you to feel more alert and focused. Some types of sun lamp can even boost your vitamin D production, just like natural sunlight! Just 30 minutes per day can help.

Reflect On Your Feelings

Journalling your emotions can help you to spot patterns in how you feel so you can work through them and feel more positive. Curl up in a cosy corner with your journal and you can turn it into a magical experience that feels comforting and empowering.  

Look For Dopamine Boosts 

Dopamine may be in shorter supply in the winter but we can boost it through small but effective activities, such as: 

  • Listening to your favourite music can trigger the release of dopamine. Plus, searching for new music that you enjoy can produce an additional boost of dopamine. 
  • Meditation can increase dopamine levels too. 
  • Therapeutic massage boosts both dopamine and serotonin – and it’s wonderfully relaxing too!
  • Hugging loved ones increases dopamine and oxytocin (another mood-boosting hormone) levels and reduces cortisol levels, and self-hugs work too.
  • Interacting with pets triggers dopamine and oxytocin levels in the same way as hugging 
  • Increasing the number of positive social interactions you have (with or without touch) increases dopamine production 
  • Adding a blast of cold water at the end of a shower increases dopamine production and decreases cortisol production 

How Hypnotherapy Can Support Low Mood In Winter

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you to work through stressors and challenges that come up at this time of the year and provide coping skills and tools to reduce stress and anxiety and boost positivity. We can also set goals and challenges that increase dopamine and serotonin levels and you can work on these in between our sessions.  

If you’re ready to embrace the change in the seasons and support your mind and body this winter, I would love to help you. Together, we can change how you feel at this time of the year and minimise or even avoid the onset of the winter blues. You can book an initial consultation here to get started. 

Caron Iley

Clinical Hypnotherapist & Solution Focused Practitioner

Havisham Hypnotherapy

T: 07580 041394

E: ci@havishamhypnotherapy.co.uk

W: www.havishamhypnotherapy.co.uk