Avoiding the winter blues

As winter draws in, the days become shorter, the nights become longer and the weather (believe it or not, after the summer we’ve had!) gets worse. We all tend to feel more cheerful on sunny days – but did you know that for some people, the absence of sunshine can actually cause depression?

A lack of sunshine can bring you down

As winter draws in, the days become shorter, the nights become longer and the weather (believe it or not, after the summer we’ve had!) gets worse. We all tend to feel more cheerful on sunny days – but did you know that for some people, the absence of sunshine can actually cause depression?

Winter doesn’t need to be a time of misery as you get older – but you need to plan ahead to make sure it doesn’t. For instance, as the weather gets wet and icy, you’re less likely to go out if your balance isn’t what it used to be. Likewise, your night vision may be less keen, so you won’t want to venture out after dark. All these factors can make you more prone to isolation and loneliness, which can, in turn, lead to depression.

These days, though, there are lots of ways to keep in touch with others

  • Take advantage of ‘friends and family’ phone packages. Many companies now offer huge discounts on calls to set numbers, or at set times of day.
  • Set up a ‘buddy’ system with a friend – arrange to meet, say, once a week. This is a great incentive to get out if the weather is grey and the temptation is to stay at home in the warm.
  • Find out about senior citizen bus passes. Many buses are gloriously empty apart from at rush hour, and most passes offer free travel outside peak times.
  • If you can’t travel by bus, talk to the local council about getting a taxi card. They can send a form to your GP to fill out to check you have a physical condition which makes you eligible.
  • Get a home alarm which lets you summon help if you fall. Many falls don’t cause serious injury, but they can knock your confidence hugely. An alarm will allow you to feel secure that you won’t be left lying on the ground.
  • Contact your local social services department about social groups or daycentres. Many of them can provide door to door transport.
  • Take up a new skill, and keep your mind active while you meet new friends! Many adult education centres run daytime courses, so you don’t have to venture out after dark
  • If you get symptoms of depression (tearfulness; problems getting to sleep or waking up early; poor concentration; feeling confused; anxiety; dwelling on negative thoughts; thoughts of harming yourself; feeling worse in the mornings) talk to your GP. Medication may help. If these symptoms come on every year just in winter, you may have a condition called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a form of depression which can be helped by sitting in front of a light box for an hour or two every day.

Go surfing – whatever your age!

That’s surfing the internet, of course. The internet is a great way to stay in touch and avoid isolation. Computers are cheaper than they have ever been. Better still, most computers now come with facilities to connect to the internet (along with experts who will visit your home to set them up and get you started). Anyone with internet access can use e-mail – which lets you send and receive mail at minimal cost. Better still, because you can send a note at the touch of a button, they’re much easier and quicker to send than postal letters. With e-mail, you can send a couple of lines to lots of friends every day – or forward a longer ‘newsy’ letter to lots of contacts at the same time. You’ll soon be getting regular e-mail from your firends in return.

Some internet companies, like Skype, now have a service that lets you talk free on the phone to other skype users. Video links are another option. This can be invaluable if you have friends and family overseas. They may sound high-tech and scary, but they can be much cheaper than phone calls, and just as easy to do. Ask when you buy your computer.

With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.