Many people report suffering symptoms of depression. This year, more than ever, it feels like we’re stuck indoors. Is low mood inevitable, or is there anything you can do to change it?

Although there’s nothing you can do about the external environment, how you feel about what’s happening is entirely in your control. Alia Crum at Stanford has looked at the impact of mindset – our conscious expectations – on health. She concludes that an individual’s expectation that they will heal "can account for clinically significant benefit in an estimated 60-90 per cent of conditions" including pain, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, allergies, hypertension, immune deficiencies, Alzheimer’s disease, and even recovery from surgery.

In another study, Crum and colleagues showed some participants a video arguing for psychological and behavioural benefits of enduring some stress, while others viewed a clip demonstrating negative effects of stress. Those who viewed the "stress is enhancing" clip reported greater well-being and better work performance than the alternative group. You can use these findings to transform your own outlook, as many Scandinavians appear to do.

The annual World Happiness Report, ranking 156 countries by how content their citizens regard themselves, shows the five happiest countries – Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway – all have long, dark winters. Kari Leibowitz at Stanford and Joar Vitterso at the University of Tromso investigated the effects of mindset on well-being among citizens in and around Tromso, the world’s most northerly university.

They found a strong correlation between positive winter mindset and higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being. And almost as if to compensate for the increasing cold and darkness, the further north participants lived, the more positive was their winter mindset.

The Daily Telegraph

Read more