Why are we happier in the summer – could it be that we’re solar powered?
And why do so many people find the winter miserable!
I find it interesting that some people approach the winter months already deciding to hate it, when in actual fact, winter is a time of festivals, celebration, parties and family gatherings; it is predictably wet and can be cold, but isn’t it true that we can prepare for what’s predictable.
Whereas, the summer, in the UK at least, is a predictable let down. We have such high hopes for the summer, we look forward to it, we get excited, we make plans and what happens? – it rains, it’s wet and miserable and our summer fetes happen under umbrellas when they are not called off completely due to the odd hurricane passing by.
It’s usually on the onset of autumn that we start talking about SAD – seasonal affective disorder. Personally I think it is sad that some people do wear their misery like a badge as if its something to talk about and an excuse for being miserable.
I’m not saying there is no such thing as SAD, but what if there was something we could do about it to help ourselves and we could be as happy and excited as we are in the summer and actually look forward to to coming season. If you could, would you help yourself or would you indulge in being miserable?
So, if there is genuinely a condition which is affected by the season, but others become inexplicably miserable in winter and happy in summer, what else is going on here and what can we do about it?
1. Positive Activity
Quite simply, in the summer we do stuff. We get out more, we don’t spend the days hiding away inside we make arrangements to do things, we look forward to them and we make the most of them regardless of the weather. We get outside at every opportunity, we do things in the evenings because they’re light and we are much more active.
This is important because?:-
a. Positive activity creates serotonin. Serotonin is our feel good neurotransmitter, but the feeling good bit is our reward for doing the things we are supposed to do to keep us mentally and physically healthy. Serotonin has a much more serious job here – serotonin helps us cope, it motivates us, it makes us braver, it helps us cope with physical fear, it helps us cope with pain and it boosts our immune system.
And people with depression need this stuff – they don’t have enough of it, so they feel miserable and they don’t have any motivation so they don’t do anything so they don’t create enough serotonin, so they don’t do anything……
This is what can happen in the winter, we don’t go out as much, we stop the activities we enjoyed in the summer and don’t do anything, we stay indoors in the dark evenings and we’re not creating enough serotonin so we don’t get the feel good factor and we blame winter. Where in actual fact we are creating our own circumstances – we are responsible for our own happiness, not the weather, not the seasons, not circumstances – us.
Hypnotherapy is effective help for depression whatever the season by encouraging more positive activity which starts first in the mind which then translates into action.
b. Positive Activity burns off adrenaline. Adrenaline is stress hormone which is part of our fight or flight system. Created and used in the correct way, at times of imminent danger it sends a burst of extra strength, energy and focus to parts of our body and mind we’re going to need for fighting or running away – so essentially it’s good stuff and we need it.
But, people with anxiety create too much adrenaline constantly. By worrying about things, they are sending a message to the brain signalling a crisis, emergency or danger, the mind and body react accordingly and kick off the fight or flight mechanism.
In the summer when we get outside, walk, run or just plain old have fun, we burn off this excess adrenaline and so the serotonin we create can do its job more effectively.
Hypnotherapy is very relaxing and solution focused hypnotherapy helps anxiety by helping you to change how you are thinking so you don’t create excess adrenaline inappropriately.
2. Positive Thinking
It is all about attitude! Going back to what I said at the beginning – we look forward to the summer, we plan things and we get excited. Think about the summer right now, what’s the best thing you did or are looking forward to this summer – how do you feel about it? Has anything changed from 10 minutes ago – no, you just had a happy thought about summer and you felt nice – however briefly, but it happened. Now thing about winter – not too long, I don’t want you to end up feeling miserable, but notice the difference.
Many people, especially those with (or think they have) SAD, go into the autumn and winter with dread, full of negative attitude and these thought patterns are influencing the Neurotransmitters and hormones they are creating.
Personally, I do look forward to the changing of every season – I love autumn, cosy nights in, nature is beautiful in the autumn as everything is preparing for winter. It’s a time of feasting and plenty as crops have been harvested (no, not getting religious on you), it’s just a seasonal fact. Winter is wonderful, I wait with anticipation for the weather to get cold enough to justify lighting my fire and there is something that can only be described as magical on a frosty, fresh winter morning, out early walking or running in winter sunshine. Battening down the hatches and getting cosy on a winters night – lovely.
And then Spring is so exciting as it starts all over again.
It’s a choice of how to think and a habit. You don’t have to be miserable in the winter, happy in the summer, we can be happy all year round – what a lovely thought.
Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to actions, so make those thoughts positive, plan things you can do and keep active and sociable.
When anxiety and/or depression clients have a holiday planned, I usually ask them what they are looking forward to most and then give them homework just to notice what they are enjoying whilst on holiday. When they return we talk about what they did and which aspects of the holiday they enjoyed most and I would say the most common subjects that come up are:-
- Being with family – quality time
- Going out and eating in the evening
- Relaxing with a book
- Sightseeing, walking
- Playing tennis/walking/activities with partner
The sunshine and hot weather rarely appears on the list.
Isn’t it interesting that every one of the things on that list are things we can also do at home, it’s just a matter of arranging it and doing it and all that takes is to recognise how good it makes us feel and make it a priority in our life.
Perhaps its a shift in attitude that is needed?