Did anyone else notice how a couple of weeks ago, someone suddenly started turning the sun on later and later in the morning. AND started turning it off earlier and earlier in the evening? The horror! It happens every year but yet it always shocks and surprises me. My head expects it to happen gradually. But it doesn’t. In a matter of days, I will go from admiring my garden whilst washing-up after dinner to realising my kitchen window needs a polish as I stare at my blurry-reflection on a pitch-black background. I actually love autumn, but I really miss the light.
Beep, beep, beep…
I have found mornings very challenging over the last few weeks. I get up at 6am on work days and 6:30am on the rest. I can confirm there is no daylight bleeding round the edges of our blackout curtains at those times. I need darkness to sleep but that small amount of light helped me wake-up. The last fortnight I’ve felt groggy and sluggish when I’ve ‘woken’. It’s not just me that has felt the effects. Little H has been harder to wake, especially on nursery days where we have to get her up at 6:35am. Her mood is a little more volatile as well. Some of it is (I think) a development phase. But I’m certain sure she’s also missing the morning sun to help her wake. And she’s missing playing in the evening sun on our garden when she gets in from nursery.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lack of light is proven to have an effect on our energy and mental health. I’m sure most of you have heard of S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D. is serious condition which is also referred to as ‘winter depression’. In recent reading I’ve done around Danish and Scandinavian culture, it frequently gets mentioned that the populations in Nordic countries are very prone to suffer from S.A.D. because of the short winter days. Now I’m not claiming to suffer from this illness, but I do find myself exhibiting some of the symptoms. They sneak-up on me like the darkness. But once I spot them, I try to take defensive action!
Trying to keep the mood up
• Natural light: Getting outside during the daylight hours, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, is vital for me. I have hectic days at work with no time for a break so it’s easy for me to only leave the building for at ‘home time’. But my mood is much more buoyant on my days with Little H and we go outdoors more. I am now trying to nip outside to see the sky (and the sun if it’s there) for a few minutes when I’m at work.
• Sleep: Going to bed efficiently becomes more crucial for me in winter. It’s well known that people need more sleep in the winter; Humans used to live seasonally and work long days in summer and shorter days in winter. Nowadays we all work the same all year round (or even the reverse and putting in more desk time when there is nothing to do outside!). For me, that messes with my body clock. I can cope of less sleep in summer but in winter it grinds me down quickly. We’ve slipped into bad habits recently but I need to get that back in check – 10pm = upstairs-to-bed time!
• Colour: I’m a massive plant lover. Through the autumn and winter months I always keep as many colourful or flowering plants in / around the house as I can. I also buy cut flowers for indoors. Right now I’m embracing the trend for ‘mums’ (chrysanthemums) to give me some autumn colour.
• Indoor lighting: Finding the right light in the house is also key. Sure, I like the dim, cozy lamp light when watching TV or listening to music in the evening. But if I spend an entire evening in that type of lighting I go crazy and feel really claustrophobic. So in the kitchen and the study we have daylight bulbs.
• Exercise: Scheduled exercise becomes mandatory! During the spring and summer I am out walking and playing with H all of the time. But as the weather turns, it’s a lot more effort to tog-up and go out. H runs around the house the rest of the day but I find myself sitting more. A dose of exercise (HIIT, cycling, erging or yoga) just give me an endorphin boost and the lift in mood follows!
• We eat fairly healthy food, but I try to keep an extra focus on it over winter. I’m more naturally inclined to fresh salads and fruit in summer. In the winter it’s easy to be drawn towards stodgy food, and a bit of stodge does no harm. But too much and it makes me feel sluggish.
What do you do to keep your mood up during the darker autumn and winter months?