Seasonal Depression: How to Fight the Winter Blues

September 29th, 2011

As the cold weather starts to move in, nearly 6 percent of Americans will start to feel the effects of seasonal depression. You might even know it for its more scientific name, “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, or SAD , a very ironic acronym for the disorder. If you are a sufferer of SAD or even of the more milder form known as the “winter blues”, there are several things you can do to find a way of dealing with the emotional and physical effects.

The most obvious symptoms of SAD are disinterest in work and social activities, the urge to sleep more than is necessary, irritability, and cravings for sugary or carbohydrate-filled foods. Many people look forward to winter about as much as they do going to the dentist to get a tooth pulled. Except every day is like getting a tooth pulled for those with serious SAD symptoms. Even the brightest, happiest people can be effected by SAD. Many scientists believe the symptoms are a result of your body producing too much of the “depression hormones” and not enough of the “happy hormones”. Unlike what many people think, SAD is not a mental disorder, but a physical one that has mental implications.

Three things you can do to reduce the symptoms of SAD are:

1. Exercise. One of the best things you can do to fight SAD is to get sufficient exercise. Exercise increases your level of energy, releases endorphins, and boosts self-confidence. The combination of all of these things will help control your winter blues. The more consistent you are with your exercise routine, the more effective it will be in helping control your level of physical health and emotional stability.

2. Light therapy. Light therapy has been a popular remedy for SAD since the 1970s. It involves purchasing light bulbs that give off a full spectrum of light, which is the spectrum given off by the sun. One of the theories for why this works is due to the level of melatonin, a hormone that can influence mood, our bodies produce when we are deprived of sunlight. Too much melatonin could possibly cause many of the symptoms of SAD. Light therapy has been proven to help trick your body into not producing melatonin when it is in a dark environment for an extended period of time. Light therapy must be timed right in order to have optimal effect. The early morning hours, around sunrise, is the best time to look into a “light box”, lit with the full-spectrum bulb.

3. Eat carbs. Further research has been done to show that serotonin, one of our “happiness” hormones, has a lower production rate during the winter months. The combination of a lack of this, along with too much melatonin, can cause all of the symptoms of SAD. One way to quickly get your body into serotonin production mode is by eating pure carbohydrates, accompanied with as little protein as possible. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it and eat more calories than your body needs, but timing your carb consumption and getting the right amount, you’ll be able to kickstart your body into producing some extra “happiness” hormone to help you feel better. A study done by Dr. Judith J. Wurtman and other colleagues concluded that mood increased even when people were eating carbohydrates in a disguised form, so that they didn’t know what they were eating.

Many people suffer from SAD or even the “winter blues”. If you feel like your case is severe, you should visit a doctor and take more professional action. But if you only feel mild symptoms, then following these three tips will be of great use in helping you fight that wintertime depression.

About the Author

Natalie Clive is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers provides useful tools for potential students to help them determine if an online education is right for them. If they make the decision to enroll in an online school, website tools will also help them find the best online colleges to help them complete their degree.

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