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I find January the hardest time of the year. I generally feel like British winters want to kill me, or at least try and break me, and for me, winter has become all about beating the January blues and trying to survive until Spring mentally and physically. January is the hardest. The post-Christmas slump, dark and cold weather and what seems like a long month. Poor January is hated by many who deal with winter.
The UK is cold, often very damp and wet, with little sunshine and shorter darker days, from the end of October to March each year, and that causes me to struggle. A lot of people do. Wet, damp and cold, being cooped up indoors a lot, and winter germs make it a tough time to manage.
This year, I have been using a SAD lamp, loaned to me to see if it helps to improve both my mood and my health. I don’t have seasonal affective disorder, but my anxiety and mental health does seem to hit it’s lowest between the end of October and March so we thought it wouldn’t hurt to try a lamp to see if it helps.
How does a SAD lamp work?
Some people with SAD find that light therapy can help improve their mood considerably. This involves sitting by a special lamp called a lightbox, usually for around 30 minutes to an hour each morning. It’s thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).
So every morning since the clock change last year in October, I spend half an hour sitting under the glow of my SAD lamp. I use it first thing when I wake up. I usually try and combine that time with some reading or catching up on emails or meditation. It has several settings and UV filter. It’s not a tanning lamp so I don’t look like I have been on holiday (sadly)
So is it working?
There are mixed thoughts on SAD lamps but people who use them say they do help and so far this winter, I think it has made a difference.
This is the first winter where I haven’t felt as despairingly sad. I also have felt much healthier with only one bad cold rather than a score of colds, coughs and chest problems. The SAD lamp doesn’t do that, the combination of feeling better in my head and having less illnesses makes a big change.
To be fair, I am also having Vitamin B12 injections and I am taking a high dose of Vitamin D (both prescribed medically) and the combination of these plus the SAD lamp is really helping I think.
So if winter is hard on you, then it might be worth looking at what you can do, to survive it in better shape. Better sleep, a bit more exercise, eating well, trying to get outside when you can, all can help.
There are also prescribed medical therapies for SAD and if you are struggling in winter, like talk therapy and medication. It’s always good to chat to your healthcare provider if you think you might need some input.
It’s helping me. This year I am really determined to beat the January blues.