It’s a new year, and for many of us, a fresh start and a time to get started on some big goals. Last year I blogged about how I’ve shifted my own New Year – in terms of goals and resolutions – to start in April, because Seasonal Affective Disorder means that cold, dark January is the worst possible time for me to begin. It’s the period where I feel the most sluggish and run down and sleepy – so I’d be setting myself up to fail.
Well, after lots of us took part in a #BashSAD challenge in October, it’s time for an update on my own SAD journey, three months on. And things have changed somewhat!
So have I been keeping up with my own principles and positive habits around bashing Seasonal Affective Disorder on the head?
Well yes. But the truth is that my success with keeping its effects at bay this year has not been down to daily self-determination and persistence, but rather a few powerful habits. For example, one of the best ways I can make sure I beat SAD is to exercise, and as much as possible in daylight and outside. I have a dog, she needs walking every single day, and so this positive action has been kept up through the act of routine; I can’t not walk her.
I’ve also been really, really busy in the last quarter of the year. I’ve been job hunting, the social calendar has been packed, I had a Christmas fair to prepare for, I work full-time; the list goes on. So I’ve found myself going to bed earlier and not flopping on the sofa in front of the tv in the evenings, simply because I’ve been tired enough to sleep and recharge for the next day, and I just haven’t had much time for flopping!
So I won’t claim to be the queen of perseverance when it comes to doing the things I know I should do to help protect myself from the effects of SAD. What I will say is that I now know that habits and routines work – whatever goal it is you’re trying to achieve or behaviour you’re trying to change. That’s one big lesson I’m taking away from this year. It’s the little things you do every day that make the difference.
Is there anything I’ve done differently to other years?
Yes. There is one thing that I think has made an enormous difference this year – so much so that I can honestly say that the effects of SAD on my body and mind have been minimal compared to all previous years. A work colleague casually mentioned a few years ago that he uses a vitamin D spray under the tongue throughout the winter months. He takes it to boost his immune system; I knew vitamin D is the holy grail of all SAD sufferers. So I popped along to Holland & Barrett and had a chat with them, came out with the lower of the doses of spray they sell, and, in keeping with habit-forming, started taking it every morning – I’ve mentally linked it with brushing my teeth, as both taste of mint. Whether it’s a placebo effect or not, I cannot tell you how much better I have felt for it. The sluggishness and late afternoon slump have all but vanished. I feel happier, more energetic and more productive. I just feel more positive and ‘can do’ rather than, “well I’ll wait until I feel better in April.”
I’ve since bought a bottle for my mum, who also suffers, recommended it to countless friends, and gone back when the bottle ran out to buy the higher dose, having checked in with my GP first. Here it is if you fancy finding out more (and no, this is not a sponsored post!) I found the Holland & Barrett staff really helpful, so do chat to them before you buy.
The other small but significant change this year has been in my attitude. #BashSAD in October meant that instead of approaching winter with dread and resignation, I’ve subconsciously taken back control and realised I can do more to combat SAD than I think. It’s made all the difference in my approach.
What does the future hold for me and SAD?
There are always things I can do to improve, of course. I’d like to put in place some more healthy eating habits – especially for packed lunches, for which I don’t tend to have much enthusiasm, so I become boring. I’d love to bring in a daily yoga routine too. But I’m feeling positive about the future. I’ll pursue the positive habits – and try to carry that lesson to other goal areas in my life. I feel so much better for taking the vitamin D that I feel I can cope with starting my year in January after all, (that feels amazing to write!) but I’ll monitor and continue to track my energy levels.
And I’ll definitely be hosting #BashSAD again this autumn. Put it in your diary for October 1st!
How has your SAD-bashing journey been so far this season? If you have any stories or tips do leave them below, and feel free to visit my #BashSAD Pinterest board, too!
And, er… Happy New Year!