16th January 2023
The third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue Monday” due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights, and any New Year resolutions that might be proving a bit of a challenge so far. While you might not feel any different on the day, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect around 2 million people in the UK and it’s characterised by feeling more down, usually during the winter months.
Our pets are also vulnerable to the mood changes that often can accompany the darker days and colder weather, so how can you banish those blues for you and your beloved companion? Here are just a few things that may help!
What is SAD?
The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight in the shorter months. It’s believed that melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles, is produced in greater amounts whilst your body might struggle with making enough serotonin to help boost your mood, appetite and sleep. This basically means we’re more likely to want to stay inside, cuddle up in a warm place, and get plenty of rest.
How can I manage SAD in me and my pet?
Everyone's affected differently by SAD and any winter blues, so what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you should try to help ease your symptoms.
Make the most of the daylight
Since the production of both melatonin and serotonin is dependent on the amount of daylight your body is exposed to, try to give yourself and your pet as much natural light as possible. This can be achieved by scheduling walks during sunny hours instead of heading out in the dark. Also, you may want to move your cat or dog’s bed nearer to a window so that even while they’re sleeping, they’re able to catch some rays.
Whilst you’ll probably feel like staying in and curling up on the sofa when it’s cold and dark, it’s good to keep as active as you can to help combat the winter blues. Getting out and about and doing a bit of exercise can do wonders for mental, as well as physical, happiness as it helps release serotonin, your happy hormone!
Not sure where to start when it comes to exercising your dog in winter? Check out our recent blog for hints and tips.
Keep in touch
Making sure you keep in touch with your friends, family and even neighbours over the colder months can help you feel less isolated. If you have a dog, you could even check for any local meet-ups or plan a walk with someone nearby. For those with cats, why not invite a friend over for a cuppa and a catch-up? Helping you, those close to you and your pet ease any winter blues.
Find some time to play
Play is just as beneficial as exercise as it’s another way to help boost serotonin levels in the brain. This can all be done inside if your pet is less inclined to head out into the cold. While playing with your canine companion or feline friend shouldn’t be limited to the winter months, it is a good way to keep busy and stay happy.
Easy interactive games to play with your pet
- Hide and seek – hide their favourite toy or treat and let them try and find it.
- Training – why not try teaching them some new tricks?
- DIY puzzles – get creative!
Don’t pressure yourself
It’s important not to push yourself and do too much as this can have the opposite effect and negatively impact your mood when things don’t quite go to plan. It can sometimes help to make smaller changes that are more frequent rather than trying to tackle big plans too suddenly. The important thing to remember is that whatever the goal set, we often feel better when we’ve done something (even small!) and always tend to be glad we challenged ourselves.
Hopefully, with these tips, you and your pet will have a chance at a happier and more active time over the winter months.