I crave sunshine, rays of it, not buckets of rainfall. I yearn for those blue skies laced with fluffy wisps of cloud and warm air that allures us outside to be amongst a sea of smiling, happy faces. Why? Because I love to travel to warm destinations but also because I’m SAD.
I make up one of the 29% of Brits who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to research, SAD can cause irritability, a low mood, feelings of despair, difficulty waking up, lethargy during the day, carbohydrates cravings and weight gain. Weather often keeps us behind closed doors. Grey days mean we rely on the unhealthy effects of artificial light sources such as fluorescent tubes which trigger hyperactivity in the brain.
Once the sun shines, we ‘Saddies’ change. We feel happier and brighter. Our posture improves, we step outside, open windows and our diet changes to fresher choices. Fashion has a makeover, colours become vivid and there is definitely spring in our step.
Gone are stressed expressions, instead, they are replaced with smile exchanges with strangers. Smiling releases endorphins, which combat stress hormones. A smile creates an eye crinkle, known as a ‘Duchenne smile’. This causes the cardiovascular system to calm and when we laugh we are forced to exhale which lowers our heart rate so we instantly feel better. So it’s official, smiling is good for us.
Sunshine is synonymous with holidays and days without the usual routine of daily chores. So, even if you aren’t a member of the SAD group, holidays and travel to sunnier climes is definitely a health benefit. From the Canaries to Costa Blanca, Madeira to the Med, winter sun is easily accessible with flights to an increasing number of destinations and holiday packages for all budgets.
And they take all forms. Whizzing down ski slopes with the sun racing ahead, cruising with a warm sea breeze, exploring a city, a country, or unravelling the mystery of the Middle East while dune bashing in Dubai, meandering in Muscat or shopping in the souks.
The sun makes unscheduled appearances here in the British Isles. So whether it’s strolling along the beach in Brighton, a walking weekend in Windermere, living it up in Liverpool, a coach trip to Camarthenshire, sampling scotch in Scotland, glamping in Gloucestershire, or enjoying nature with the National Trust, there’s lots to do.
Multi-generational family trips, a romantic break, a solo holiday, a city tour, safari, a beach flop or an ocean cruise, holidays will take your mind off the SAD button.
If you are a SAD sufferer being in natural sunlight is the natural cure but in its absence there are alternatives:
Buy a SAD lamp which prompts the release of serotonin.
Apply positive psychology to your life. What goes on in our head and how we choose to perceive the world shapes are own reality. Focus on the good, colourful areas of your life, rather than the grey, dark gloomier side.
Sprinkle happiness into your life with smiles and laughter, positivity as well as engaging in activities that make you feel good.
Laptops and mobiles take us out of our real surroundings. Set them aside and take a stroll in the garden or park to appreciate nature’s own conversation.
Many of us live our daily life on autopilot due to ingrained habits. We often ignore the pleasure and appreciation of small experiences that create our routine. Living in the now can bring us back to moments of pleasure and can slow down our over-active minds.
Do what you enjoy today, don’t leave it too far in the future – go and find that sunshine!