Most people have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the condition that is believed to occur during the months of short days, when we are less exposed to vitamin D and this, in consequence, results in low mood or even depression in the Winter months. It’s a definite thing and there are various ways you can help yourself if you have this condition – daylight lamps, vitamin supplements, or just going away to somewhere sunny (I personally would advocate the last of these if you can afford it!).
There are lots of reasons why we can feel more down and less motivated in the Winter however, and while I wouldn’t rule out SAD, I do think that the awareness of this condition can steal some of our power. There are several very common influences on our mood that tend to occur more commonly at this time of year:
- It’s cold;
- It’s usually wetter;
- It is often dark and gloomy;
- If we work a 9 to 5 we leave the house in the dark and return in the dark;
- We may have overspent at Christmas and be struggling or our work may be seasonal in nature;
- We may have put on too much weight through comfort foods;
- We may drink more, because the evenings are longer.
These reasons in themselves are enough to cause us to feel unhappy, and holding on to the idea of an underlying clinical condition may tend to keeping us from dealing with the issues themselves.
Use a ‘reframe’
A much better way to handle external factors is to ‘reframe’ them. Reframes are bread and butter to practitioners of NLP and hypnotherapy, they help change the way you think about something. You offer your brain alternative ways of looking at things in order to modify the emotional experience that is associated with the thought.
Consider these two sentences:
Michael stepped out into the clammy, cold morning air and shuddered at the thought of trudging to work.
Michael stepped out into the crisp cold morning and shivered with anticipation of the day’s work.
The temperature on both these days was the same, the weather the same, the only differences are Michael’s language, his state of mind and his intent for the day. Which thought feels better?
What about this one:
When Carly pulled into her drive at 6 that evening, it was already dark. The lights were on. Every body else was at home enjoying themselves.
When Carly pulled into her drive at 6 that evening, it was already dark, the lights from the living room were warm and inviting, she couldn’t wait to get in and find out about everybody else’s day.
Again, there is no difference in the experience, only in how Carly thinks of them. Which thought feels better?
Although these are simple examples, reframes can be very powerful. You can reframe ‘failure’ as ‘learning’, you can reframe mild ‘pain’ as ‘discomfort’, you can reframe a job loss as a career change.
If you have any doubt about this process, consider this – you may already be reframing negatively and holding yourself back. When you think about exercise do you: dread the drive to the gym and the effort; or do you look forward to the burst of energy and the feeling of achievement? When you think about the alarm going off in the morning, do you: set it to snooze and just get another ten minutes sleep – the day can wait; or do you leap out of bed and burst into action?
Start to challenge yourself and ask how else you can think of things that will make them feel better.