How to beat the blues this winter!

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Socialise, exercise and aim for a daily dose of outdoor light to help beat the blues this winter, according to the Australian Psychological Society.

As the first real day of winter approaches, with 21 June marking the winter solstice and the longest night in the southern hemisphere, it is not uncommon for many people to experience changes in their sleep patterns, energy levels and mood.

Commonly known as ‘winter blues’, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now recognised as a type of recurrent depression, the extreme form of a common pattern of lowered mood and energy in winter.

"While winter SAD is most common in the northern hemisphere and appears to be rare in temperate Australia, research has shown that up to 0.3% of the Australian adult population experiences SAD-like symptoms," says Dr Greg Murray, lecturer and clinical psychologist at Swinburne University.

"There is a trend for Australians to report lowered mood and energy levels in winter compared to the warmer months. It is commonly thought that decreased light levels in winter cause SAD, but there are many ways to ease the symptoms," says Dr Murray.

Tips for beating the winter blues include:

  • Ensure you get at least one hour of outdoor light each day, preferably in the morning
  • Make an effort to keep up your social life. A decrease in social activities during the winter can have an impact on a person’s mood and energy levels
  • Exercise! Make sure you keep well and active by continuing activities such as exercise. While more difficult to undertake in winter, it can help lift depressive symptoms
  • Extreme sufferers may need to undertake light treatment which involves sitting in front of a portable light box for about one hour each day

SAD also responds to more standard depression treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

"It is important to remember that depression in winter can be a serious problem that may need professional attention if these simple lifestyle actions fail to counteract the symptoms," concludes Dr Murray.

An APS psychologist has the training to provide professional advice in the area of SAD and/or depression. The general public can call the free APS Psychologist Referral Service on 1800 333 497 to locate a psychologist in their area.

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Dr Greg Murray is available for comment, please contact:

Elaine Grant
Communications Manager
Australian Psychological Society
Ph: 03 8662 3300 or 0412 683 068