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If you've never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), then count yourself as one of the lucky ones! SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. People suffering with SAD tend to feel the shift of sadness during the winter months when it's cold, dark and damp. 


In fact, the most common period for the onset of SAD is from late October, all the way to February. In this blog, we'll explore the causes of SAD and some tips on how to beat the blues. 


(We understand that some mental health problems require more professional advice, and we're not experts. If you feel as though you need it, do not hesitate to contact a medical professional for advice and guidance.)


What Causes Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Depression, in its simplest form, is caused by a lack of daylight. SAD can be worsened by spending more time indoors, which is especially common during the winter months.


Here are some frequent causes of SAD: 

  • Confinement indoors for long periods
  • Low, or dim, unnatural lighting for long periods
  • Shorter days, implying the notion of less time

Ultimately, the lack of sunlight has a negative impact on certain chemicals in the brain, which prevents the hypothalamus from working properly. Due to this, the brain is unable to generate the 'happy' chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.


What's the Link Between Nature and Mental Health? 

There have been many studies published that explore the positive correlation between being in nature and a positive mental attitude. Not only does nature improve mental wellbeing, but it also benefits physical wellbeing. For example, a study from Stamatakis and Mitchell stated that nature can reduce mortality!


Here are some facts about nature and mental health referenced in their study: 


Being in nature can reduce anger, fear and stress alongside reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones. (Stamatakis and Mitchell, 2015)


In a study of patients undergoing surgery, half had a view of trees, and half had a view of a wall. Those who had a view of trees appeared to tolerate pain better. (Ulrich, 1984)


In a study by Mind, 95% of people interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside - changing from depressed and stressed to calm and balanced.


Children with ADHD have an increased attention span after spending time in nature (Andrea Taylor, 2009)


5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health With Nature


1. Try and Get as Much Natural Sunlight As Possible

We know that this can be easier said than done, but try and seek sunshine wherever possible! This may mean moving your work station or moving about furniture to a sunnier location within your space, or it may mean going out for a daily walk when the sun is at its highest in the sky.


2. Make Your Work and Home Environments Light and Airy

A garden room is an excellent environment if you frequently work from home, or simply if you need somewhere to relax! It's the perfect go-between if you like being outside but hate the cold. Ensure that your curtains and blinds are open throughout the day to let natural light in.


3. Sit Near Windows When You're Indoors

This depends on how many windows you have in your property, but if possible, always try to sit near a window to get a draft of fresh air and some natural sunlight. Even if it is only just a little bit!


4. Exercise for Natural Endorphin Stimulation

Why not do two things in one? Spend time in nature and exercise to get your endorphins flowing.


5. Try To Time Difficult Tasks During the Sunniest Part of the Day

There are always a few tasks on the to-do list that you'll want to procrastinate. It can be especially hard to find motivation when it's dark outside, so be strategic and try and plan your day around the sunlight. 



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