Discover how the lack of sunlight impacts us and how to combat the winter blues!
The gloomy winter nights are drawing in before most of us have chance to finish our 9 – 5 shift, having arrived at work accompanied by the treacherous Jack Frost. Whilst the festive season shines like a glimmer of daylight at the end of a very long tunnel, helping to keep our spirits high, it is scientifically proven that a lack of sunlight during winter can have a negative impact on our bodies and mood.
However, there are many things you can do to combat the depressingly short days to have a positive impact on your mood.
Appleyard London teamed up with Professor Peter Clough from Manchester Metropolitan University to run a Q & A to discover what you can do to reduce stress and depression during the dark and dreary nights.
What is the impact of these short days on us? Are we really moody due to the lack of sunlight?
“Yes, a lack of sunlight really can affect our mood. Some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. This can be quite severe for a small number of people. Most of us are affected by the change in seasons – it is normal to feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, or to find that you eat more or sleep longer in winter. However roughly 2% of the population may experience severe symptoms.
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days.
The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:
- production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
- production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
- body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock and lead to symptoms of SAD”
Getting up in the dark and leaving work when it's dark, can this have an impact on your working day?
“It can – for most people it tends to make people less happy and more fatigued. This may impact on job satisfaction and in general less oomph in your day.”
Are there any specific exercises or routines that help combat the dark nights?
“Exercise and better diet can help. In addition, better lighting can help. It is suggested that more colour can also take the edge off of negativity – but this is not empirically tested.”
What about putting beautiful objects in your daily life? What about trying to be generous to the people you appreciate?
“Small acts of kindness and art can significantly impact on your mood. It does not have to be anything big and it has a positive impact on the giver and receiver.”
Interview continues below:
A 10 month study by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, revealed that flowers have an immediate effect on happiness whilst positively affecting our long-term moods. Additionally, the report showed that participants felt less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers whilst feeling more compelled to contact friends and family. With a particular interest in flowers ourselves, we decided to dig a little deeper…
What impact do flowers have on well-being?
“There is limited research – a study by Haviland-Jones (1985) showed that receiving flowers enhanced mood for up to 3 days.”
What is it about flowers that have such an affect on a particular person?
“This is not clear. It has been argued that flowers have been cultivated in order to do this – selected for their mood enhancing properties. They are also guilt free – unlike foodstuffs. Their colours and fragrance do have a particularly positive affect on mood for most people – double whammy! Finally, they are linked to societal norms relating to romance and reward.”
Is there a particular flower that has a more positive affect than others?
“It depends – most cultivated flowers will work – but people have preferences based on their experiences and associations.”
How else would you suggest for people reduce stress and stand up against the dark, cold nights?
“There are a vast array of stress reduction techniques – bio feedback, positive thinking, imagery, Yoga, listening to music, warm baths etc. In addition, it would be good to couple these with activating systems like physical activity, healthy eating and of course colours and aroma.”
What would you recommend to someone who has a friend or family member who really gets down during the dark nights?
“They should seek medical advice if severe. It is a recognised problem. However, for most of us it is just a low-level reduction in well-being. Fun activities help. Winter festivals rely on colour, noise, aromas and presents. They work. Small gifts can produce large benefits.”
Despite the dark and gloomy nights, it appears there are certain methods and steps we can take towards combating the negative affects, like depression and fatigue associated with this time. From exercise to a better diet and from bright colours to cultivated flowers, there are lots of ideas to help improve our well-being during the cold and gloomy winter months.
Appleyard London, the luxury online florist from London would like to thank Professor Peter Clough for his expert contributions to this article.
To help you combat the dark gloomy nights of winter, you can enjoy 30% off our luxury flowers at Appleyard London with discount code SMILE30. Better yet, enhance the mood of a friend or family member with a flower delivery to their door. Apply the discount code at checkout. Offer excludes Flowers by Post range. Standard T&C’s apply. www.appleyardflowers.com.
Credit - About Flowers for the results of experiment.
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