Beating the Winter Blues

Ever feel like winter is getting you down? You’re not alone. Most people assume their winter melancholy is just a coincidence-- the tiredness is a mere product of your workload; the cravings are something hormonal; even the social anxiousness must stem from some social issues you haven’t worked out yet. But, it’s not that simple. The environmental changes in the winter have a biochemical effect on the body, making winter depression an actual biological response to darker, shorter days -- and you may not even realize is happening.

Winter depression is a real, scientific thing- here's why. The body runs on an internal clock, known as circadian rhythm, which regulates the release of certain hormones that tell your body when to be alert and when to feel sleepy. As the winter days get shorter and darker, your body responds to the lack of light as a signal for nighttime, producing more melatonin (the hormone responsible for putting your body to sleep) earlier and more often. The more melatonin your body produces, the more tired you will feel-- ultimately leading to your symptoms of winter blues.

Here's the plus side. There are ways to help rebalance your body chemistry, whether by adding something to your lifestyle or simply making some adjustments.

1. Vitamin D Supplements

The sun is great-- it keeps us tan, but it also keeps us happy. Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and without it, we are more prone to vitamin D deficiencies, which have been linked to weaker immune systems, fatigue, and depression. During the winter, a great way to keep your vitamin D levels up is to take vitamin D supplements, which can be found at most pharmacies and ordered on Amazon.

NatureMade Vitamin D Tablets, Amazon.Com

2. Sun Lamp or Light Box

It might seem like a myth, but using a sun lamp or light box has actually shown effective results in helping improve mood and combat winter depression. A sun lamp or light box, also known as a ‘happy light,’ mimics outdoor light and resets your circadian rhythm, which will help your body produce less melatonin while the days get darker earlier. Happy lights can fit easily on bedside tables or desks, and range in price, averaging from around $30 to $60.

Beurer Daylight Lamp, Amazon.Com

3. Exercise Habits

Working out is great, and we really do try to stick to it, but for those of us feeling the winter blues, it is essential to keep hitting the gym. First, exercise itself is a mood booster, as it produces a range of ‘feel good’ hormones. Second, exercising in the fluorescent gym lights might feel like a curse, but it increases your light exposure, and as we know, the more light, the better.

4. Chocolate

The news we’ve all been waiting for: chocolate as a health benefit. Now for the fine print, we’re talking about dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been known to improve mood due to one of its antioxidants. During meals, integrating lean proteins and foods rich in omega-3 acids will help beat the fatigue and increase energy.

 

If your winter depression seems worse than those around you, don’t write it off. The winter affects everyone differently, but if you are originally from a warmer location, or have a genetic history of depression, you could be experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is form of depression that accounts for the more severe winter blues. Instead of waiting out for summer, take control of your options and talk to your doctor, as they can shed light on the best ways to feel better this winter.