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Don’t Let Winter Get You Down

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, State Member for Coogee on July 5, 2019 in Other

Sydney’s not so bad, by Jeffrey Blum.

It feels like the longest summer ever ended overnight. May began with top temperatures in the very high 20s and we didn’t experience daytime highs below 20 degrees until the final days of the month. Indeed, temperatures throughout the month of May were alarmingly higher than historical monthly averages and will hopefully convince even the most ardent climate change deniers to re-evaluate their position.
With the month of June came a sudden change in the weather with night-time temperatures dropping below 10 degrees. I’m sure I wasn’t alone over the past weeks in searching through wardrobes and drawers for warmer clothes, a rug for the floor and an extra blanket at night. Like most locals, I tend to kid myself that we only have a short period of cold each year and that our weather is predominantly lovely. Our homes are just not built for the cold and our outdoor lifestyle is so much more suited to the warmer weather.
It is of course our sports that are the highlight of our winters. Friends tell me that they feel a bit gloomy or sad sometimes when they’re cooped up at home and the weather feels too feral to venture out. Some people even experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in seasons, and research shows that the symptoms are more common in the winter months, reducing energy levels and making you moody.
I was delighted to attend the launch by the Black Dog Institute recently of their clinical study into the relationship between sport and mental health. The Black Dog Institute does a marvellous job as a not-for-profit focusing on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Clearly the relationship between mental health and sport is not as simple and straightforward as we might intuitively imagine. We know, for example, that going for a run or playing some sport can raise our endorphins and improve our mood, yet depression is a well-documented problem experienced by a good number of elite athletes. I am impressed by the Black Dog Institute’s determination to explore for us all how sport relates to our mental wellbeing.
Please don’t assume that the preceding paragraph was an argument for remaining on the couch until the clinical trials are completed; there has already been plenty of research that demonstrates physical activity is an effective method of helping to prevent or alleviate the symptoms of mild depression. Unfortunately, watching sport probably does not count, although watching a good game of rugby certainly improves my mood.
I once read that eating fried fish is better for you than not eating fish at all. Applying that same logic, I’ve convinced myself that watching a good game of footy is better exercise than watching nothing at all!