Sunlight-lacking Brits are known to live a ‘mushroom existence’ during the winter months, spending just an hour of each working day outside - with 2020 set to be worse than usual.
A study of 2,000 adults found 81 per cent often had days where they didn’t step outside at all during daylight hours last winter.
Younger people are faring badly with just nine per cent of 18-24 year olds having some time outside every day compared to almost 30 per cent of the over 55s.
But the study, commissioned by supplement brand Healthspan revealed this winter could be more extreme with one in four admitting the lack of commute and Covid-19 restrictions means they will spend even less time outside.
This can not only have an affect our mental health, but also our physical wellbeing and immunity levels due to the lack of vitamin D.
Almost one in five also said that seeing friends and family virtually means they have less need to head outdoors this year.
Others believe they will see less daylight this winter due to Covid-19 fears (47 per cent) and doing more online shopping than in previous years (40 per cent).
Dr Meg Arroll a psychologist specialising in health on behalf of Healthspan said: “We all see the pattern every winter. As the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, we spend less and less time outside in the daylight.
“This winter, with restrictions in place and more on the horizon this will have an effect on our mental health, but it could also affect our physical health and immunity levels due to the lack of vitamin D.”
Also, an experimental study conducted at Pennsylvania State University found that people who feel low or in a bad mood consistently over a given day, for several days, had higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. This new study also shows that long-term anger and sadness can also have a direct physiological impact. Therefore, it’s important to first of all notice when we’re feeling chronically down in the dumps or frustrated – short bouts of irritation aren’t harmful, but months and months of dreading the winter is not only unpleasant, but there is increasing evidence to show that this mindset can impair immune function, potentially leaving us less able to fight off infection.
The study also found that 94 per cent felt that on most working days last winter, they left home in the dark and returned home in the dark, with 58 per cent saying this was the case every day.
As a result, just over an hour is spent outside on working days, rising to just over two hours a day at the weekend.
But a lack of daylight leaves 44 per cent feeling more tired than usual while 33 per cent often feel unmotivated as a result.
Others feel grumpier (32 per cent), depressed (25 per cent) and even unable to function properly (15 per cent).
It also emerged that 57 per cent are dreading this winter more than usual due to the Covid restrictions.
And 61 per cent think this winter will be harder than usual on their mental and physical health, leaving them planning to look after themselves more than normal over the next few months.
Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director, says, “Prevention and self-care is key and it’s good to see that over half of those surveyed said they are taking steps to support their immune health - a third take vitamin C and nearly half take vitamin D. New products like Healthspan ImmunoVit Super C and Vegan D with Zinc and B12 (www.healthspan.co.uk) will help to deliver robust support for the immune system, the UK government are also recommending that everyone takes vitamin D to help boost their overall health; and there is increasing evidence for the immune benefits of medicinal mushrooms. It’s also important to look after your diet and lifestyle - get enough sleep, get physically fit and avoid excess stress.”
But the study, carried out via OnePoll, revealed that despite the lack of time outside, 74 per cent are looking forward to being able to spend cosy days and nights at home this winter.
The survey also revealed that this winter people are looking at embracing their own ‘regional’ winter traditions with 29 per cent of people saying they plan to adopt the British tradition of hunkering down in cosy homes with roaring fires and comfort food. While 22% of people will try out the Còsagach the Scottish tradition which means to be snug and sheltered and 14 per cent are going to give Cwtch a Welsh tradition which means cubbyhole. A trend of crafting home spaces which embraces people like a hug.
Dr Meg says, “During this time when the world is still dealing with Covid-19, it’s helpful that we do everything we can to limit the harmful effects of persistent negative thought patterns such as winter dread and instead look to other countries who embrace the colder and darker months with aplomb.”
“By accepting what we cannot change, whilst committing to what we do have an influence over, we can make the very best of our mushroom existence – for instance, accepting Covid-19 restrictions but committing to helping others by checking in on more vulnerable neighbours (socially distanced of course) will ‘pay forward’ positivity that gives great returns. This type of pro-social behaviour doesn’t just boost good mood, but a daily kindness maintains positive affect which we know is beneficial to health.”
“There are many things in the world that we cannot change (such as the pandemic), but we do have control over our emotional responses – therefore, let’s do all we can to keep healthy and balanced this winter. In times or situations where we are restricted, for example at the moment with coronavirus and winter approaching, mindset is everything.”
For further advice from chartered psychologist Dr Meg Arroll visit www.healthspan.co,uk
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