The term "mental health" describes a person's emotional, psychological, and social well-being, which are the cornerstones of their total well-being. It encompasses many aspects of a person's life, such as emotional stability, stress tolerance, the ability to maintain healthy relationships, make sound decisions, and adapt to changes and challenges. A person's mental health is a profound influencer, affecting their capacity to lead a life that is not only meaningful but also fulfilling and productive.
The winter months usher in a unique set of challenges, such as reduced mobility, diminished exposure to sunlight, social isolation, and the risk of seasonal infections like colds and the flu. These factors can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Dr Ashwini Sakhrdande, a Mumbai-based physiotherapist and physio consultant, said, "Winter can lead to a variety of health issues for individuals of all ages, including those in their teens, older adults, and children. This is due to the lack of physical activity and social interaction, which can lead to depression, fatigue, isolation, and anxiety. To tackle these health problems, it is important to ensure a balanced diet that includes seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and adequate hydration.”
"Engaging in indoor exercises and enjoyable activities like walking, skipping, spot jogging, and practising yoga can effectively reduce the impact of winter on one's well-being. In addition to exercising and eating a healthy diet, maintaining a comfortable and cosy environment at home, commonly referred to as 'hygge,' can also play a significant role in promoting good mental health," Dr Sakhardande added.
A public healthcare professional on the condition of anonymity said, "Many people suffer from SAD during the winter season, which is caused by a lack of exposure to natural sunlight. Low energy, irritability, changes in sleep patterns, and feelings of sadness are all symptoms of SAD. Light therapy, psychotherapy, and medication can all be very effective in treating SAD and other mood disorders. Mindfulness and relaxation practices, such as meditation, breathing exercises, and gradual muscle relaxation, can be highly effective in managing stress and anxiety."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that in 2019, one in eight people, or 970 million people worldwide, had a mental illness, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most prevalent. Around 301 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety, including 58 million children and teenagers. In the world, depression affects about 280 million people, including 23 million children and teenagers.
UNICEF data from 2021 shows that 14% of Indians aged 15 to 24 reported feeling depressed. Additionally, a 2015 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that approximately 56.67 million Indians, or 4.5%, were suffering from depressive disorders.
Maintaining mental health during the winter season necessitates a combination of lifestyle modifications, self-care measures, and a proactive approach to managing the difficulties of the season. Adapting to eating a nutritious diet, engaging in physical activity, fostering social connections, and practising mindfulness can help to ensure that your mental health remains strong and resilient during the colder months. Remember, winter is just a season, and with the right strategies, you can navigate it with grace and maintain your mental health.