The winter can be extra rough for a portion of society impacted by seasonal depression. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it’s a type of depression that’s caused by decreased amounts of sunlight in the wintertime. Decreased sunlight causes the body’s internal clock to become confused, which results in a drop in the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin. It's a chemical imbalance that's real and should be treated as such.
"The most important take-home message is that people who experience seasonal affective disorder should not suffer in silence. SAD -- like other types of depression -- is treatable, and people who experience symptoms should seek help," Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, said in a foundation news release, reported on WebMD.
Symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, low energy, sleep changes (trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, weight changes, irritability, tiredness, and low energy. Keeping yourself active even when you don’t feel like it helps stave off feelings of lethargy and it helps you sleep at night. Fighting off the urge to sleep later can also help you stave off winter depression. Eating heartier meals is okay. In the wintertime, a raw food vegan diet may not be satisfying, but at the same time binging on carbs isn’t going to make you feel any better.
Keep in touch with relationships in the winter. Suit up in warm gear and go for a walk with a friend. Hit a yoga class, join a meditation group, or take a cooking class. Bottom line--stay active even when a large part of you wants to park it on the couch and watch reruns of "Seinfeld."
Here are some other tips for fending off seasonal depression:
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, can help fight off seasonal depression. Light therapy boxes give off light that mimics the sun. Because the light is significantly brighter than regular light bulbs it helps get your circadian rhythm back on track.
Dawn simulators are alarm clocks that simulate the sunrise. This is helpful in the wintertime when a lack of morning sunshine means you end up sleeping later than you normally would.
-Talk to your doctor
Be honest about the way you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to talk to a trusted healthcare practitioner. They may have other ideas for helping you get through your slump.
It may be cold but the sunlight outside can be helpful for those that suffer from seasonal depression or SAD. Any day when it’s sunny, whether it’s freezing or not, force yourself to head outside and enjoy the light. This also keeps you active when your sad side says you’d rather be vegging out inside. Staying active makes you feel much better.
This is not a doctor’s advice and you should talk to a doctor if your depression causes extended periods of sadness.
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Image: Lawrence Murray