From Gloomy to Glowing - How to thrive this coming winter

Healthy Living

‘Winter is coming’. Maybe not in the Game of Thrones sense, however the weather is certainly getting colder. While many embrace the idea of getting out the hoodies, Ugg boots, and settling in for movie nights and weekend sleep-ins; many Australians find the cooler weather challenging for their mental health and wellbeing. In fact, more than 1 in 3 Australians report feeling more down and depressed during winter (McCrindle Research, 2015). So, while some may welcome the reprieve from the heat and humidity, for others ‘winter is coming’ does in fact resemble the approach of something ominous. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder 

 In 1984, Rosenthal described seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a type of clinical depression occurring regularly during winter months and remitting by the following spring or summer. While most studies have been conducted in the northern hemisphere, the few studies that have been conducted in temperate climates like Australia have offered mixed results. What we do know, is that SAD typically affects women more than men, and is more common in younger adults. We also know that SAD tends to run in the family, and people who experience SAD often have been diagnosed with pre-existing anxiety and depression.  

People who experience SAD are often quite debilitated throughout winter and find daily functioning extremely challenging and difficult. While SAD is fairly rare in Australia due to our more temperate climate, many Australians will experience its milder version, the winter blues.  

The Winter Blues 

While on the surface the winter blues and SAD look similar, there are some key differences.  

Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) 

The winter blues 

Major disorder that requires treatment. 

A general feeling of sadness and overall lack of energy. 

Inability or extreme difficulty functioning in daily life. 

General lack of motivation, however able to continue functioning. 

Isolation and social withdrawal. 

Some reluctance to plan and initiate social outings.  

Significant appetite changes 

Increase in carbohydrate cravings 

Significant changes in sleep patterns; hypersomnia (excessive sleep) or insomnia  

Mild sleep disturbance: reluctance to get out of bed or increased day time napping. 


So how can you mitigate against the impending ‘doom’ of those colder weeks and months ahead? A few simple shifts in your routine and learning to work with the weather rather than fight against it can create a significant shift in mental health and wellbeing. Start with the below suggestions to shake things up and set yourself up for success this winter.  

  1. Soak Up Sunlight: Get outside during morning or lunchtime hours to boost your Vitamin D levels. 

  1. Stay Active: Adapt your exercise routine to indoor group fitness classes or the gym. 

  1. Warm, Nutrient-Dense Meals: Swap summer salads for hearty slow cooker dishes. 

  1. Healthy Snacking: Stock up on nutritious snacks and limit sugary treats. 

  1. Simplify Socializing: Entertain at home and stay connected with friends. 

  1. New Hobbies: Engage in creative activities for a sense of purpose. 

  1. Socialize Online: Start chat groups with friends to share ideas and stay connected. 

And always remember to visit your GP if you feel your symptoms worsen or begin to disrupt your daily functioning. 


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