Feeling blue? You're not alone! We all feel sad at times; it's a normal human emotion. Sometimes, it's clear to see what has triggered our depression. Common reasons for feeling sad include bereavement, the end of a relationship, losing your job or money problems. But it's not always so clearcut.
You might yourself waking up every morning feeling lethargic, with no energy for anything except lying on the couch and watch box sets. You might be feeling frustrated and sad that you haven't tackled any of those chores that are waiting for you. Maybe you're feeling isolated and lonely, or unsupported by your friends and family.
Sometimes you might compare yourself unfavourably to others who seem to have a perfect life, or you might be suffering from a range of vague aches and pains. You might be brooding on those kilos you've piled on recently or be worried about a mountain of unpaid bills. But what else causes those "meh" days when we feel sad - and what can we do to feel better?
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Here are some reasons that might be causing you to feel dejected:
The grey skies and shorter hours of daylight in the winter can make us feel sad, and some people are more susceptible to this effect than others. During spring, people spend more time outside, and their moods improve. Researchers also found that our cognitive, problem solving and creative abilities improve in the spring and summer.
Some people are more deeply affected by the changing seasons. They may suffer from a condition known as Seasonally Affective Disorder or SAD, when the winter blues develop into clinical depression, with changes in sleep patterns, motivation and appetite. More women than men are affected by this disorder.
If you're suffering from the winter blues, try to spend some time outside every day, whenever the weather permits. Some people find that a daylight lamp can improve their mood, or try Bach flower mix 92, which helps to banish gloomy thoughts and lift the spirits.
Our stress responses evolved to cope with very different kinds of stressors than those we're required to deal with today. We rarely need to run away from ferocious beasts and then relax, but we have to cope with the chronic stresses of the modern world. Financial worries, work pressures, and lengthy commutes are worries that are difficult to escape and that we have little control over.
When we're facing multiple stresses without any recovery time, it can leave us feeling drained and discouraged, without any resilience to allow us to bounce back. If you feel that your stress levels are building up and your life is just a burden, meditation, yoga and regular exercise can help. Bach Flowers also allows you to cope with stressful times, addressing issues such as insomnia, panic attacks and poor concentration. Sharing your feelings can also help - if you don't want to talk to a family member or friend, you might feel more able to open up to a counsellor or therapist.
Our hormones influence many of our bodily functions, including metabolism, growth, sexual function and mood. Low levels of certain hormones, for example, those secreted by the thyroid, are too low, can be the cause of depression. Hormones also fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, and a woman may experience a low mood and irritability in the week before her period.
Alternative treatments such as acupuncture can be useful in regulating hormones. Bach flower mix 60 can also help to lift your mood and restore your equilibrium.
Are you burdened with an inner critic who's always criticising and judging your every action? Especially when things aren't going well? This critical inner voice doubles down on anything negative by blaming you for what's happened. It undermines you and stops you from enjoying positive events by telling you that you don't deserve it or that it won't last.
These negative thoughts take the enjoyment out of life and are likely to make you feel sad and gloomy. When you're troubled by fears and worries, take a pen and paper and write them down - then screw the sheet of paper up and throw it away! Creating a document and then dragging it into the trash works equally well.
Vitamin D insufficiency
Many people in Northern Europe don't have sufficient vitamin D, and this is linked to a higher risk of depression. We get some vitamin D from foods such as egg yolks, oily fish and fortified breakfast cereals and the body also produces this essential substance from sunlight. The reasons for the insufficiency aren't proven, but scientists link it to lack of exposure to sunlight and poor nutrition.
Large scale studies in the Netherlands have shown that Vitamin D levels were 14% lower in people with moderate to severe depression compared to those not suffering from depressive disorders. So if you're feeling blue, you might want to consider taking a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms per day.
A final thought
It can often be challenging to establish the reasons why you're feeling blue. If you experience a low mood for more than two weeks, consider consulting a doctor to exclude any underlying medical factors.
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