Darker mornings and longer evenings mean that a lot of us rarely catch much daylight during the week. According to YouGov, around 29 percent of the UK battle with debilitating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), while almost two thirds of us feel noticeably less happy during the winter months compared to the summer. The lack of sunlight throughout the colder months can affect your melatonin and serotonin levels, and leave you feeling tired, lethargic, anxious and depressed.
Spring might feel like a long way away, but if you have suffered with symptoms of SAD previously there are a few tricks you can employ to help lift your mood. Earlier this month, a study highlighted how exercise can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital looked over data from over 8000 people and concluded that regular exercise can help reduce depressive episodes.
“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” says Karmel Choi, PhD, of MGH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. “On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.”
This isn’t the first study to outline the benefits exercise can have on our mood. For years, experts have been championing that well-established idea that working out releases mood-boosting endorphins. What makes this study particularly interesting is that the researchers discovered that both high-intensity activities, such as aerobics and dances, and low-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, can help reduce your chances of having a depressive episode. In fact, the researchers concluded that by adding four hours of exercise into your week can reduce it by 17 percent.
What does four hours of exercise look like? Well, it could be four hours of cardio in the gym, or a weekly 1.5 hour yoga class paired with 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week. If that feels like too much of a commitment but SAD is something you’ve struggled with previously, Shabir has a couple of tricks to help, including two fast-acting supplements – read more, here.