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Shedding light on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Shedding Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder: Tactics to Avoid the Winter Blues.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly abbreviated to S.A.D is a type of depression that can come and go in a seasonal pattern. More commonly this disorder is associated with the winter season as this is when symptoms tend to be more apparent and severe. However, this isn’t limited to the colder months, as SAD is specific to the individual some may experience symptoms in the summer months if they are less likely to cope with warmer weather.


Symptoms of SAD –

  • Persistent low mood
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • Easily irritable
  • Recurrent feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Lacking in energy, constantly tired or feeling lethargic
  • Emotional
  • Craving comfort food and carbohydrates
  • Struggling to get out of bed and sleeping for longer than normal
  • Becoming less sociable
  • Feeling anxious or stressed
  • Find it harder to concentrate

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is classified as a subtype of depression by the DSM-V. Upon reading the DSM-V, it appears that SAD shares some of the symptoms of depression; however, the fact that it is seasonal distinguishes it as a subtype. SAD can be marked by recurrent episodes of unipolar state of depression. Unipolar traits exhibit intense sadness, melancholia or despair that has got serious enough to be disruptive to an individual’s daily functioning and/or social activities.

The S.A.D Condition –

Aside from the seasonal effects of this depressive subtype; individuals suffering from SAD experience atypical symptoms. As a multi-factorial condition, the disorder effects the chronobiological mechanisms of the body. These include the likes of our circadian rhythms, melatonin, serotonin turnover and photoperiodism.

Tactics to Avoid the Winter Blues –

  1. Embrace Light Therapy – expose yourself to bright artificial light during the daytime, this can help regulate your body’s internal clock and boost your mood.
  2. Get Outside and Soak Up Natural Light – take a walk during your lunch break, choose outdoor activities whenever possible and keep your curtains open to let in as much daylight as you can!
  3. Stay Active – physical education releases endorphins which are natural mood boosters. Take part in an exercise that you enjoy, this could be the gym, yoga, dance, outdoor sports or simply a long walk.
  4. Mindful Eating – during the colder winter months it’s not uncommon to crave comfort foods. Opt for nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or flaxseeds have been scientifically proven to improve your mood.
  5. Practice Self-Care – prioritise self-care activities that promote relaxation, stress reduction, and emotional well-being.

Remember, brighter days are on the horizon, and with these tactics, you can thrive even during the darkest of seasons. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of SAD, please seek professional help for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This can be done through us here at MTCIC; our counsellors are well trained in this area and can provide guidance, support and treatment to all individuals suffering.

Embracing Solitude: The Art of Enjoying Your Own Company

In modern society our everyday lives can be a whirlwind of social interactions and external stimuli. However, with social exertion there must come a time for solace. Learning to enjoy your own company can increase personal growth, encourage self-discovery, and help find inner peace. In this blog post, we will explore techniques to help you embrace and enjoy that alone time.

  1. Cultivate Self-Awareness – take time alone to understand yourself. Track your thoughts, emotions, and desires while identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and passions. Appreciating your own mind and personality can build a healthy relationship with your physical and mental state.
  2. Practice Mindfulness – the art of mindfulness is being fully present in the moment without a state of judgement. It is important to set aside time in your day to engage in mindful activities with yourself, these could be as simple as taking a peaceful walk in nature, yoga, or meditation.
  3. Engage in Solo Activities – do what YOU enjoy doing. Pursuing activities that bring you joy without the need for validation or company is an important skill to have. These activities could include reading a book, painting, writing, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, sporting hobbies or interests that captivate your attention and ignite a passion. Engaging in activities alone can provide a sense of self-fulfilment.
  4. Prioritise Self-Care – self-care can take any form to best fit you. Typically, it uses techniques to nourish the mind, body, and soul. Physically this is represented through eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
  5. Explore New Environments – most prefer spending their alone time in the comfort of their own space or home, however, putting yourself in a new environment can be equally as rewarding. Choosing locations that you haven’t yet explored and having the freedom to do so freely can be refreshing.
  6. Embrace Solitary Reflection – include moments of self-reflection and introspection. Using journalling allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a judgement free zone. You can use this time to express your dreams and aspirations whilst reflecting on lessons learnt.
  7. Disconnect from Technology – in a society surrounded by technology and connectivity, its important to carve out time to disconnect and unplug from social channels. Set yourself time limits for social usage.
    In a reality that frequently glorifies constant social interaction and validation, learning to enjoy the time you have with yourself is a valuable skill. By using these aforementioned techniques you have the ability to transform on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

The Importance of Sleep for Mental Health: Tips for Improving Your Sleep Routine.

As society evolves and our world is becoming more fast-paced, sleep can take a backseat to the numerous responsibilities and activities that consume our day to day lives. However, the importance of quality sleep is vital for maintaining our mental health. Sleep plays a significant role in stabilising our emotional well-being and cognitive function. This blog aims to delve into the importance of sleep and how you can enhance your sleep routine.

The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health

Previous literature demonstrates an intimate connection between mental health and sleep. Lack of and poor-quality sleep can have a detrimental impact on our emotional and psychological well-being.

  1. Mood Regulation – during sleep our body uses this time to regulate our moods and emotions. Lack of sleep can make mood swings more frequent, increase irritability and feelings of sadness or anxiety.
  2. Cognitive Function – processes such as concentration, memory, attention, and decision-making need adequate sleep in order to be able to perform. A decent sleep will increase the brain’s ability to make rational judgements and problem solve daily situations they may face.
  3. Stress and Resilience – with sufficient sleep, both our bodies and mind are better equipped to handle stress and less susceptible to mental health troubles like depression and anxiety.

Tips for Improving Your Sleep Routine

So, how can you enhance your night-to-night sleep?

  • Establish a Consistent Schedule – create a consistent routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body’s internal clock and promote a consistent sleep pattern.
  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine – signalling to your body that it is time to wind down by carrying out calming activities. These could include reading a book, taking a warm bath, practicing gentle stretching or meditation, or listening to soothing music.
  • Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment – make your sleeping space your sanctuary. However, you best sleep – set the tone. Ensure a dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature. Invest in your sleep space, it is important; perhaps get yourself some new bedding and pillows that provide adequate comfort.
  • Limit Screen Time Before Bed – Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers emit blue light, these rays can disrupt your ability to get to sleep and sleep quality. Try avoiding the use of screens at least one hour before going to sleep or use blue-light glasses to minimise effects.
  • Avoid Stimulants – consuming substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and reduce sleep quality.
  • Exercise Regularly – regular physical activity during the day improves sleep quality at night while the body restores and repairs itself. However, vigorous exercise right before going to sleep should be avoided as this could elevate your heart rate and energise the body, making sleep more difficult.
  • Manage Stress – the use of mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, journaling and/or talking to a trusted friend or family member can reduce stress levels – enhancing sleep quality.
  • Seek Professional Help – if you struggle with sleep on a regular basis or suspect you may have an underlying sleeping disorder, consult a healthcare professional. They can provide accredited knowledge, a proper diagnosis and subsequently provide appropriate treatment options.

Making your sleep a priority is a powerful step to maintaining and enhancing optimal mental health. Remember, giving yourself a good night’s sleep is an essential, not a luxury.

The Link Between Physical and Mental Health: The Importance of Exercise.

We can often find ourselves caught up in the demands of daily life in today’s fast paced world, neglecting our physical and mental well-being. However, it is vital to understand that our physical and mental health are intricately connected; taking care of one aspect positively impacts the other but vice versa on negative impacts. One of the most powerful tools to elevate both these factors is exercise. This blog aims to explore this connection and highlight the power of exercise in maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Physical Health and Exercise

To maintain physical health, a regular form of exercise is paramount. Such forms could include physical activities like jogging, cycling, swimming, strength, or aerobic training offer multiple benefits to the body. Exercise strengthens not only our muscles but is excellent for heart health and bone density. Having an active relationship with exercise in turn governs weight control and heavily reduces the risks of chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer), and improves overall longevity.

The Mental Health Connection

In a parallel to the physical benefits, exercise has an equally significant impact on our mental well-being. Physical activity releases important commonly known ‘feel-good’ endorphin hormones; these work to increase your sense of well-being, reduce stress and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. During exercise, the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) rapidly increase. This is a protein that aids the growth and survival of nerve cells in the brain, thus, elevating cognitive function and decreasing neurodegenerative disease risks.

Stress Reduction and Mood Enhancement

A natural stress reduction is provided through exercise. Through improved blood circulation and the triggering of the body’s natural relaxation response, physical activity helps our bodies release tension and stress. Regular exercise can raise energy levels, sleep quality, self-esteem, and body image. These beneficial adjustments to our physical health help us feel happier, have fewer depressive symptoms, and generally be more satisfied with our lives.


Cognitive Function and Exercise

As a huge accelerator of blood flow to the brain, exercise is excellent at enhancing cognitive function. Studies show that regular exercise improves memory, attention span and problem-solving skills, thanks to the extra oxygen and nutrients heading to the brain. Ultimately, long term this helps to prevent any cognitive declines or risk of age-related memory loss.

The link between mental and physical health is pivotal in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Making exercise a priority should be for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Fundamentally, increasing bodily fitness, boosting mood, and increasing cognitive function – leading to an overall healthier and happier life.

Journaling – can it benefit you?

Journaling involves writing down your feelings, thoughts and experiences in a personal journal or diary. Diary writing can be extremely beneficial to aid self-expression and self-reflection, increasing both mental and emotional well-being.

How can journaling benefit you?

  • Emotional Expression – journaling your thoughts provides a private and safe space to express and process your emotions. Writing thoughts and feelings down on paper can be a cathartic process to release pent-up emotions and gain a clearer perspective.
  • Stress Reduction – writing these thoughts is a therapeutic way to unload stress. Noting your fears or anxieties can decrease their severity and provide a sense of relief.
  • Self-Reflection – using a diary or similar physical notebook to record these emotions and feelings can provide a file of life experiences to look back on. Going back to difficult times in your life can help you identify personal growth. Similarly, it can allow you to notice patterns in these behaviours and find a common occurrence or reason for these feelings.
  • Problem-Solving – recording these troubled emotions can help you to organise these feelings and find solutions to those that are problematic. You can brainstorm ideas and perspectives of said thoughts – compartmentalising your anxieties.
  • Creativity and Self-Expression – some enjoy using journaling as an opportunity to be creative. Try out new writing styles, explore your use of language and/or draw up doodles or images to help explain your thoughts. The restriction of judgement from others is removed.
  • Memory Enhancement – journaling can be used as a memory book of events and experiences to look back on. Writing down both your best/most significant moments as well as your down days can create a life record to revisit in the future.

Don’t know where to get started? Here are our favourite prompts that could inspire your journaling and personal growth journey.

  1. Write about your goals and aspirations.
  2. Describe a challenging situation you recently face and how you handled it.
  3. Reflect on a recent accomplishment and what it meant to you.
  4. Write about a person who has a significant impact on your life and why.
  5. Explore your fears and how they might be holding you back.
  6. Write a letter to your younger or future self.
  7. Describe a place that brings you peace or happiness and why.
  8. Write about a book, movie, or artwork that has deeply influenced you.
  9. Reflect on a mistake or failure and the lessons you learned from it.
  10. Write about something you are grateful for and why.

With personal reflection there are no rules. It’s a time for yourself that can be tailored to your preferences, needs and desires. Write regularly, without judgment, and allow your thoughts to flow freely. Over time, you will discover the unique benefits that journaling can bring to your life.

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt theory was initially developed by husband and wife, Fritz and Laura Perls. Early assumptions of humans by Mr Perls left this theory in a heartless state whereby Fritz would outwardly confront and challenge his clients. Now in the modern day, this theory has become increasingly more compassionate and empathetic, with thanks to wife Laura and other contemporary therapists; Polsters and Zinker.

Kurt Koffka, a Gestalt psychologist, succinctly stated what he believed to be the Gestalt theory’s fundamental tenet: “The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” The way the human eye and brain interpret a single shape is distinct from how they interpret that shapes’ component pieces.


Principles that underpin the Gestalt therapy:

  • Phenomenology – according to this school of thought, knowledge of the world is derived through personal experience rather than, say, scientific theory or what the media reports. To put it another way, the client is an authority in their field.
  • Pragnanz – the idea that we naturally perceive things in their simplest form.
  • Existential – the theory recognises that humans are in a constant process; not static. Each individual’s timeline is different and those develop at unique rates.
  • Similarity – grouping likeminded items based on their colour, orientation, and size.
  • Experiential – Clients develop an awareness of their present-moment experiences, including their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours as they interact with the therapist. The unconscious becomes conscious as a result, and they should be able to spread this consciousness throughout their everyday life.
  • Common region – we group objects together if they are bounded by the same areas and concepts.
  • Holism – The therapist is concerned with the full person and how each component of that person might be integrated both within and outside of that person’s world.

Many people can benefit from gestalt theory, particularly those who battle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, relationship issues, low self-efficacy, and physical issues like migraine headaches, ulcerative colitis, and back spasms.

Techniques –

Empty chair – The empty chair invites patients to explore and express their feelings towards a fictional person or a part of themselves. The goal is to converse with the vacant chair as if it were filled by a different person or aspect of themselves. The client gains understanding of their feelings and thoughts as a result. The therapist may assist the client in this process, assisting them in verbalising their emotions before using the empty chair to encourage a conversation that might result in closure or acknowledgement of their experiences.

‘I’ statements – The use of “I” phrases encourages clients to take responsibility for their feelings rather than assigning blame to others.

Confrontation – ‘To challenge or frustrate the client’. When utilised properly, it is a priceless tool for bringing clients into a clear knowledge of their realities. Confrontation is a tactic that cannot, however, be utilised with every client due to sensitivity.

Body Language – Gestalt theory encompasses the physical sensations within the body during therapy and troubles. Giving attention to the body can create an awareness in the clients’ emotions. Therapists may ask where in the body a certain feeling is coming from, e.g., butterflies in the stomach.

Exaggeration – Following on from body language these physical senses can be repetitious. A repeated physical action from a client may be talked about and said client may be asked to exaggerate the movement and speak about the emotions it brings up.

Creative activities – Many gestalt therapists will encourage their patients to become more aware of their surroundings, remain in the present, and learn how to process the present by engaging them in hobbies like sculpting, drawing, and painting. With the help of this method, the patient can become more conscious of their feelings and the continuing healing process.

Gestalt therapy urges patients to pay attention to their current challenges while considering their entire selves. A therapist can help someone in analysing their point of view to identify self-defeating thought patterns or limiting beliefs. Gestalt therapy specialises in developing a fresh perception.