Winter can be a difficult time, particularly for those with limited mobility. With fewer hours of daylight and plummeting temperatures, it’s often a struggle to find the motivation to spend time outdoors, which can have a negative impact on many areas of your life.
In this article, we look at the root causes of the winter blues, how they can affect you and what you can do to combat them.
Make sure you get plenty of light
Darker mornings and evenings in the winter can have a very negative effect on your mental health. As light plays a huge role in our productions of vital hormones, a lack of it can take its toll on you. If you find the dark and gloomy winter months are getting you down, there are a number of artificial lighting options designed specifically to recreate sunrises and even provide a natural light for you during the evening. We spoke to light therapy experts Lumie about how to beat the winter blues with light:
“The short days and dark mornings of winter make waking up a struggle for many of us. The dark winter evenings further impact on our internal body clocks to the point where 24% of us experience the winter blues and 7% within that group suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can be disabling to the point where you struggle to function normally.
“SAD is caused by the lack of bright light in winter, daybreak light is the signal for the pineal gland to stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin, but, in winter, the light level is insufficient to trigger this process. As a result, many people find their body clock moving forwards during the winter, making it harder and harder to get up and going in the mornings. Waking with light will provide the stimulus the body needs to help keep the body clock on track by suppressing the production of the sleep hormones and stimulating the get up and go ones, like cortisol, so you find yourself waking naturally feeling alert and ready to get up.”
Fortunately, Lumie has a range of wake-up lights and SAD lights to help you beat the winter blues. The Lumie Bodyclock was designed for better sleeping and waking. Lumie said: “You can wind down with your favourite book or music knowing that the light will automatically fade to black at the end of the sunset – no having to wake yourself up to switch off the light.
“The sunset function on the Lumie Bodyclock is also ideal for creating an optimal sleep environment, the gradually decreasing light stimulates the brain to switch off the alerting hormones like cortisol and start producing the sleep hormones like melatonin.”
With the limited amount of light throughout the winter, it’s important to make the most of it. Simply by making sure you spend at least 30 minutes to an hour outside each day can drastically improve your mood. Fortunately, mobility aids such as folding mobility scooters make it possible to travel further afield, should you wish to get away for a day or even a weekend. Whether you’re eager to visit the countryside or coast, make sure you schedule some time to experience the great outdoors. On a cold day, you might struggle to find the motivation to get out the door. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea, try a short route in your neighbourhood or just travelling to the supermarket. The fresh air and light will do you a world of good.
It goes without saying that being warm and cosy is essential in order to beat with winter blues. Even in the UK, temperatures can plummet, and rather than crisp snow, we’re more likely to get rain. Gloomy, cold weather undoubtedly has a negative effect on our mood in the winter, so it’s important to make sure your home is pleasantly warm so you spend less time concentrating on the elements and more time enjoying the comfort of your home. Here are a few tips on keeping your house warm:
- If you’re heading out, switch the heating on before you leave so it’s nice and cosy when you get back
- Make sure there are plenty of warm blankets around the house
- Take care of any draughts – draught excluders are great for doorways
- Avoid placing large furniture in front of your radiators
- Invest in thicker curtains to avoid losing heat through your windows
- Close the doors to any unused rooms to avoid cold air travelling through the house
Dose up on vitamin D
Without plenty of natural light, our bodies create significantly less vitamin D, a vitamin which helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. In turn, these nutrients keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. If you struggle with limited mobility and spend lots of time indoors, you may be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency in the winter. Fortunately, you can get vitamin D in some foods, such as oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna), red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as most fat spreads and breakfast cereals, according to the NHS. If you feel you might be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor. They might recommend that you take vitamin D supplements.
Eating healthily is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues. By incorporating vital vitamins and minerals into your diet, you can boost your mood to feel more positive, in turn helping you to be more active. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to combat symptoms of depression, can be found in walnuts, chia seeds, soy beans, salmon and other fish including herring, sardines and mackerel. Magnesium, a mineral which becomes increasingly difficult to absorb as we age, helps to increase energy and combat anxiety. Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts are all loaded with magnesium. If you’re trying to ward off symptoms of a common cold, or to help fight diseases and infections, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C. Peppers, citrus fruits, spinach, broccoli and tomatoes are all rich in vitamin C.
Maintaining relationships with friends and family is particularly important when you have mobility problems. While mobility scooters are fantastic for getting you out and about, there will be days when you’re feeling less enthusiastic about braving the cold to see people. Try to get a few dates booked in your diary, whether it’s a family meal or just meeting a friend for coffee. Arranging to meet people outside for walks or to do some shopping is also a great idea, so you get your dose of vitamin D and catch up with loved ones.
Image credit: Lumie