A year ago, Nick Johnston and Sandaire partnered together to support in the personal and professional development of individuals within the business and enhance team performance.

Nick Johnston, Director of Athletic Thinking, has worked in elite sport for over 15 years. His career so far has seen him repeatedly embedding world class performance systems and coaching at the top of the game, working with some of the best respected international coaches and athletes in rugby. The transference of this experience into the corporate sector is key to our partnership and through Athletic Thinking, Nick applies some of the principles of elite sport to business growth and development.

With us all well into the depths of winter and with Christmas around the corner, we thought what better way than to showcase some of the work that we are doing with Nick than to offer some top tips on how to health and wellbeing throughout the winter months.

The second in our series is focused on seasonal affective disorder, also known as S.A.D. As many people still tend to believe that this does not exist, it is estimated by the NHS that it affects approximately one in 15 people in the UK between September and April.

S.A.D can be particularly severe during December, January and February, hence the relevance of this article. For some people, their S.A.D is so disabling that they cannot function in winter without continuous treatment, whilst others may experience a milder version called sub-syndrome S.A.D or ‘winter blues’.

Here are five top tips from Nick on how to avoid this, especially in these cold, dark winter months:

Morning Routine (1)

Many people find dark, winter mornings almost impossible when it comes to getting out of bed. One way to combat S.A.D is to have a strong morning routine. Focus on the following –

  • Plan your day before you go to bed
  • Get out of bed when your alarm goes off!
  • No snooze allowed
  • Allow time for a shower, both hot or cold
  • Exercise or walk to work if you can
  • Eat breakfast

Exposure to natural light (2) 

Another way to combat S.A.D, although not natural light, is to purchase a light therapy lamp. These can be used both at home and at work and a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exposure a day can be hugely beneficial. In addition to point one, you can also use these as an alarm clock to fit into your morning routine.

This may sound obvious but for many this isn’t easy during winter. You may find that you wake up when it’s dark, work inside in an office all day whilst dark and then, by the time you leave to go home, shockingly… it’s dark! Make sure to maximise any time that you can for natural light exposure, whether it is on the way to work, a mid-morning break, lunch time or weekends.

Increase physical activity (3)

Much the same as above, finding the time for physical activity in winter is not an easy task, as well as motivating yourself when the temperatures are at times sub-zero. However, physical activity in any form can help increase your mood and release serotonin levels. Try housework, taking your dog for a walk in the morning/evening, going to the gym if you can or team based activities.

Healthy eating and immune activity (4)

With Christmas around the corner and the festive treats already making their way out, it isn’t easy to manage a perfectly healthy diet. This being said, if you are prone to S.A.D and wish to avoid it, also avoid eating excessive carbohydrates… everything in moderation. Try and eat more indulgent healthy foods and up your intake of fruit and vegetables to improve your immune support. Top Tip: Try adding a homemade smoothie with fruit and vegetables to your morning routine.

Build a support network (5)

Much like anything else, a problem shared is a problem halved. Try and build a support network of loved ones, family, friends, work colleagues and even your GP. If you feel that S.A.D is having a huge impact on your life, do not keep it to yourself as there are many more ways than just these five to help improve how you feel.


We hope that these top tips help you to cope with the winter months as much as possible and work towards avoiding Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).