Winter typically starts out joyfully as we celebrate the holidays with our loved ones. Unfortunately, for many, that joyful feeling does not shine through the long, dark winter days which proceed the holiday season. Research has shown that the farther away you live from the equator the most likely you are to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as the winter blues). It also tends to be about four times more common in women. Seasonal affective disorder typically begins in the fall and gradually becomes worse as the days become shorter. Shorter days mean an insufficient amount of sunlight and vitamin D as well as colder temperatures. Come spring, those who suffer find themselves getting out of their seasonal slump.
Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Someone suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder often displays some or all of the following signs: moody, sad, anxious, increased eating (especially carbs), weight gain, increased sleeping, frequently tired, crying spells, irritable, difficulty concentrating, and a decrease in activity level.
How to Beat the Blues
Due to the fact that we absorb an inadequate amount of sunlight and therefore vitamin D during the winter months, it is important to help our bodies out.
1. Light therapy- Many people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder use light therapy or bright light treatment. This would require sitting in front of a light box, which acts as outdoor light, for a 1/2 hour each morning and then again in the evening, if necessary.
2. Vitamin D supplement- To increase the amount of vitamin D in our bodies, a vitamin D supplement will help. The amount of IUs needed will vary from person to person.
Some simple lifestyle changes can also make a big difference in our overall winter mood.
3. Exercising will give us more energy, give us that “feel good” emotion, and keep our metabolism up.
4. A healthy diet will also give us more energy. Avoid refined and processed foods, drink at least eight cups of water a day, and limit your alcohol intake. Refined and processed foods with decrease your energy and alcohol is a depressant.
5. Socialize with others. Talking with those you love and trust will lift your mood during these long months.
6. Accepting the winter season by finding enjoyment in a winter activity can also help. Winter offers more than we give it credit for: sledding, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, winter hikes, the list is endless.
Enjoy the rest of this winter season, bundle up, and remember that spring will come.