As the weather begins to cool and the days get shorter and shorter, it’s easy for us – and, in turn, our kids – to spend more time inside, tucked up in the warmth and away from the rest of the world. But it turns out, some of those winter comforts can actually have a negative impact on our mood, leading to what many of us know as the ‘winter blues’. We chatted to Tania McMahon from Brisbane’s Benchmark Psychology about seasonal depression, and how to combat it.
There’s no denying the fact that it becomes a lot harder to do the things that we enjoy in summer – sitting in the sun, after-school walks and catching up with friends – in the winter months. For one thing, we have less daylight hours to fit everything in, and the winds and cold air make heading outside seem like the hardest thing ever.
While the decision to stay inside on the weekends or get out of bed much later might not seem like a big deal at the time, psychologist Tania McMahon says that this could be having an adverse effect on your mental wellbeing.
“Seasonal depression is definitely a thing, and while not everyone will experience it, certain people who are more prone to depression or have had it before can find the winter months particularly difficult,” says Tania. “Some things that would typically contribute to depression, such as a lack of exercise or social isolation, are more prevalent during winter, and they tend to be self-reinforcing.”
What this means is that a drop in your mood is likely to make you more inclined to stay inside or keep to yourself, which can make the problem much worse. “It’s a downward spiral,” Tania says.
But there are definitely small steps you can take to ensure that you – and particularly your kids – don’t succumb to the winter blues. Things as simple as a morning walk or a coffee with friends can help to boost your mood, making you less likely to fall into the trap of seasonal depression. For your kids, it’s as simple as getting them outside as much as possible and doing most of the things they’d normally do in the warmer months.
“Make sure you do things that would normally make you feel good, even if they don’t seem like they will at the time. Do things that are enjoyable, like catching up with friends, exercising or being creative, as well as things that make you feel accomplished, like doing the laundry or finishing a puzzle,” says Tania. “Something as simple as making plans and sticking to them, rather than letting your mood decide what to do at the last minute, can make you feel so much better.”