What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
You know the feeling: You’re more tired these days, maybe anxious or moody. It’s harder to get out of bed, and when you do, your mood resembles the landscape you see — cold, dark, and nasty.
That’s the problem: The gloom caused by Mother Nature each winter in much of the country is biologically felt to some degree by an estimated one in four of us — usually starting around October and then magically ending by April with spring’s thaw.
But about 11 million Americans have a more severe form of winter depression — , the aptly acronym SAD that is typically diagnosed after at least two consecutive years of more intense symptoms. “With the doldrums, it’s in the norm to gain up to 5 or 6 pounds over the winter, but with full-blown SAD, weight gain can be far more than that.”
Either way, it stems from the same cause: Sensitivity to the lack of sunlight that results from winter’s “shorter” days and disrupts our circadian rhythm, or internal body clock. The degree of this sensitivity, and resulting winter depression severity, largely stems from some combination of other factors — your geography, genetics, and individual brain chemistry.
With SAD, the lack of sunlight causes the brain to work overtime producing melanin, the hormone that regulates your body clock and sleep patterns and a hormone that has been linked to depression. That’s why all things considered, the farther north from the equator you live, the greater the risk you’ll have some degree of winter depression.
The body clock takes its cue from sunlight, especially that in the morning. Delay in sunrise in mid-winter: This difference is enough to affect circadian rhythm timing and throw the body clock out of sync.” The solution is to get as much sunlight as possible. Light enters the eye, which activates a body clock system. This system is connected to the brain’s appetite hardwiring, which might explain why you may have more food cravings in winter.
“But getting enough natural sunlight can be difficult now in many parts of the country. When people travel to and come home from work or school, its dark outside because of the shorter days.”
Can I Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If you’ve been suffering with SAD, you can take these steps to help prevent it from coming back:
- Spend some time outside every day, even when it’s cloudy. The effects of daylight still help.
- Begin using a 10,000 lux light box when fall starts, even before you feel the effects of winter SAD.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. This will help you have more energy, even if you’re craving starchy and sweet foods.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
- Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. Social support is very important.
12 Winter Depression Busters
- Watch the sugar. Eat chocolates/sweets… Not more sweets friends… 🙂
- Stock up on Omega-3’s.: Omega-3 capsules or take rich in Omega-3 foods.
- Give back: Gandhi once wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
- Join the gym.: accomplish the goal: a heart rate over 140 beats a minute.
- Use a light lamp. Bright-light therapy–involving sitting in front of a fluorescent light box that delivers an intensity of 10,000 lux–can be as effect as antidepressant medication for mild and moderate depression and can yield substantial relief for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Wear bright colors. “faking it ’til you make it,” desperate attempts to trick your brain into thinking that it’s sunny and beautiful outside–time to celebrate
- Force yourself outside. head outside for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. It’s much more fun to cuddle up with a good novel or make chocolate chip cookies and enjoy them with a hot cup of joe. Midday light, especially, provides Vitamin D to help boost your limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. And there is something so healing about connecting with nature, even if it’s covered in snow.
- Hang out with friends. Of course you get together with your buddies when your mood starts to go south.
- Take up a project. There’s no time like winter to start a home project, like de-cluttering the house or purging all the old clothes in your kids’ closets. When a friend of mine was going through a tough time, she painted her entire house–every room downstairs with two different colors. And it looked professional! Not only did it help distract her from her problems, but it provided her with a sense of accomplishment that she desperately needed those months, something to feel good about as she saw other things crumble around her. Projects like organizing bookshelves, shredding old tax returns, and cleaning out the garage are perfect activities for the dreary months of the year.
- Challenge yourself. My mood can often be lifted by meeting a new challenges like loosing weight. exploring a new hobby–like scrap-booking. build myself a website.
- Light a candle.
- Listen to music.