While winter 2012 hasn’t been bad so far,(50 degrees in January?!), the temperatures are starting to drop, and so are people’s spirits. With the arrival of colder weather and shorter days comes the SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not just the lack of cute summer clothes and tan lines to blame for the “Winter Blues,” it’s excessive eating, sleeping, weight gain, and female hormones as well. John M. Grohol, Pys. D., who is the CEO and founder of Psych Central.com, said women are twice or three times as likely to suffer from SAD than men.
People tend to feel symptoms of depression, such as a lower mood, irritability, decreased energy, change in appetite (carbohydrate craving) and anxiety in the winter due to lack of sunlight. While SAD affect some people more heavily than others, listed below are things anyone can do to fight the “Winter Blues.”
The simplest way to treat SAD is by brightening things up a bit. A study published in the journal Behavior Therapy by psychologist Kelly Rohan found that light therapy, when combined with other types of therapy, was 30% more effective in abating SAD symptoms. Finding time to take a walk outside during the winter months is a great way to boost your mood since outdoor light is more intense than indoor light. If going out in the cold doesn’t work for you, then a high-intensity light fixture can help too.
Another easy mood-booster is exercise and diet. Exercising releases endorphins that relieve pain, reduce stress and enhance the immune system, which is sure to brighten anyone’s mood. A change in diet can also help with depression. Limiting the consumption of alcohol, sugar, and high-fat food is important since they are only temporary mood-boosters and leave fatigue in their wake. Combining lean protein and complex carbohydrates provides long-lasting energy and no aftershock.
Other ways to fight winter depression pertain to relationships: relationships with yourself and relationships with others. Learning how to think less negatively can fight off those sad winter feelings; keeping in touch with family and friends is a great distraction as well. Taking the time to develop a better relationship with yourself can keep away SAD symptom too. Meditation and inspirational reading are uplifting and stress relieving.
Just because Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter doesn’t mean happiness can’t come tomorrow. If a little sunshine and meditation doesn’t seem to work, just remember that there are only 34 days until Spring! (as of Feb. 15th).