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Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

As daylight hours shorten, the body produces less serotonin and more melatonin. This, for some, can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Serotonin is a natural mood-enhancer and as levels in the body deplete, feelings of well-being and optimism decline. Melatonin is the natural chemical produced by the pineal gland that prepares us for sleep. Hibernating animals have very high levels of melatonin. The impact on well-being and productivity resulting from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is alarming, yet few companies take action to mitigate the effects. A recent report shows that SAD, which seriously affects 7% of the UK population, is a full-blown depression. Millions of others suffer less severely, but with a marked impact on performance. The total financial impact on organisations is vast. Manifestations at work include absenteeism, lateness, lethargy, low productivity, loss of concentration, behavioural issues that adversely affect work relationships and, in turn, reduce the productivity of others. Some practical actions to increase exposure to light:

For companies:

  • Have walking meetings – take meetings out of meeting rooms and on to the street
  • Be flexible – stagger working hours so one journey takes place during daylight hours or consider home-working one day a week
  • Provide bike racks and shower facilities, if possible, to facilitate cycling, running or walking to work Bright Light Therapy – increase exposure to light using specialist SAD lamps, which are shown to be effective in 85% of cases. Many Scandinavian organisations have “light rooms”
  • Schedule fire-drills and evacuations in the winter months
  • Set clearer, more concrete, short term goals to overcome lethargy
  • Get people active (exercise increases endorphins) – use computer pop-ups to encourage a stretch or short break
  • Refer people who may be suffering from SAD to their GPs

For individuals:

  • Wrap up warmly and eat lunch outside
  • Get off the tube or bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Have a balanced diet and (sorry to be dull) reduce alcohol consumption

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