Spring Equinox 2024: save your goal-setting for March

Every year typically begins with lofty ambitions and dreams of how it will finally be ‘your year’, but the harsh reality is that as many as 80% of people will have already given up on their New Year’s Resolutions. Is it a self-discipline issue or is cold, dismal January the wrong time to make drastic changes?

The Spring Equinox typically falls around March 20th, marking the beginning of the astrological calendar as well as lighter days.

In light of this, Chloe Angus, Corporate Wellbeing Manager at Mattress Online shares her insight into why your goals are better achieved in Spring.

“The new year can hold pressure for people with expectations of “new year, new you”, but for many people, this time of year is when we need to rest and listen to our body more. Spring can be good to set new intentions – it is a time when things feel fresh and our environment blooms. We can still set goals and new habits at any time of the year with small consistent steps that work with our life, however, it’s still important to consider your body and own personal capabilities, especially when dealing with SAD.” 

SAD’s Impact on Achieving Goals

Those experiencing SAD may have:

  • Persistent low mood

  • Less interest and joy

  • A lack of focus

  • Poor mood control and irritability

  • Less energy and needing more sleep- including during the day

  • Feelings of despair, hopelessness and lack of worth

  • Craving comfort foods causing weight gain

Despite well-intentioned goal-setting, these symptoms could set you up for failure if you’re not aware of them. Perhaps you set the same fitness-related goals every January, aiming to hit the gym before work, eat clean, and enjoy the process – it’s easy to see how undiagnosed SAD can sabotage your efforts year-on-year, leading you to believe that you’re “just not the type” to stick to New Year’s Resolutions.

But in fact, exercising regularly can actually improve SAD symptoms. Instead of holding off completely, the first months of the year are optimal for being more mindful and gentle with yourself, remaining active while focusing on how your body and mind feels.

How to manage SAD symptoms so you can achieve your goals

A GP might suggest treatments to improve symptoms of SAD including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), light therapy or antidepressants. There are things we can also try ourselves to support our mental health:

  • Getting as much sunlight as possible, even just a small walk at lunch

  • Manage stress, be aware of your triggers and any techniques that will help

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet

  • Seek out light; make your environment light and sit near windows if you can

  • Exercise regularly, outside if possible, to support your wellbeing.

Light therapy is also a popular means of lessening the symptoms of SAD and improving mood. This involves sitting by a SAD certified lamp or light box which produces a bright light for around 30 minutes to an hour each morning. The bright light from the SAD lamp mimics morning sunlight which we miss in the winter months.

Evidence for the effectiveness of SAD lamps is mixed but some studies have shown that light boxes are effective, particularly if used first thing in the morning. The light from SAD lamps promotes the production of serotonin (mood boosting hormone) and reduces the production of melatonin (sleep hormone) therefore helping the sleep-wake cycle of our circadian rhythm. Results tend to be seen within a week and relieve symptoms in the moment, rather than resolving long term so light therapy would need to be repeated the following winter.

Featured Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash.

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