Winter blues got you down?
If you’re feeling a little less cheerful during the cold months, you might be experiencing the “winter blues”, or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Coming from Wisconsin, where we have what seems like half a year in winter months, we know the importance of beating the blues, rather than waiting them out.
What is it?
An estimated 1 in 5 Americans suffer from SAD. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression related to changes in the season. It begins and ends about the same time every year – typically beginning in fall and continuing through the winter months. Instead of brushing it off as going through a funk, make sure to take steps to keep your mood steady and positive!
When to see a doctor: “It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.”
Some things you might not know about SAD:
- Between 60 and 90% of people with SAD are women.
- SAD relates more to daylight than temperature. A lack of sunlight increases melatonin.
- Between 50 and 80% of light box users have complete remissions of symptoms. (You can wear a light visor on your head to conduct light therapy while doing other activities.)
- Diagnosing SAD takes more than one winter depression:
– Symptoms and remission must have occurred during the last 2
– Seasonal depressive episodes must outnumber non-seasonal
depressive episodes in your lifetime
- Another type of seasonal affective disorder occurs during the summer months. It relates to heat and humidity rather than light.
How to beat the winter blues:
- Take your vitamins – especially vitamin D
- Be physically active! Even just 20 minutes of aerobic activity, 4 times per week will help.
- Keep your New Years resolutions. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and increase your motivation.
- Be social! During the holidays our social lives are full to the max. But after the holidays … not so much! Feeling down can make socializing seem like the last thing you want to do, but it’s also the time you should push yourself to get out there more. Withdrawing will only make you feel worse.
- Use light therapy. Morning sunlight is the best sunlight to keep your mood up. So waking up a little earlier and getting out in the sunlight might change your entire day! 30 to 60 minutes of light therapy each day can lift your spirits. You might want to consider investing in a light box.
- Try aromatherapy – It becomes a source of comfort and can evoke happy memories. In particular, lavender helps with symptoms of depression and insomnia.
- Treat yourself! Winter can be a stressful time. It’s freezing cold, you might be low on money after the holidays, and there are months to go before the next holiday break … Splurge a little on an outing that will destress you. Massages are shown to lower depression by reducing stress hormones and increasing serotonin and dopamine.
- Indulge (a little)! Who doesn’t need a little chocolate every once in awhile? Dark chocolate (70%+ of cocoa) is known to boost dopamine levels.