The shorter days and less exposure to sunlight during the winter months, can make us prone to feeling “winter blues”. If you are aware of even mild feelings of depression, more during the winter months, you could be experiencing SAD.
SAD ..seasonal affective disorder, is a common condition and affects an estimated 35 million Americans to varying degrees.
Of these, at least 10 million experience a serious disruption in their lives due to seasonal affective disorder. Those most likely to be affected by SAD include children, adolescents, and women. Research shows 75 to 80 percent of those who suffer from SAD are women.
Shorter daylight hours and the reduced amount of sunlight to the retina causes SAD. This is because sunshine increases the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps balance mood, and increased levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. Together, these seasonal fluctuations cause seasonal affective disorder in some people.
Symptoms of SAD could be:
Lack of energy including increased fatigue, an increased need for sleep and lethargy.
Increased appetite, possible weight gain and increased cravings for sugar and carbs.
Withdrawal from friends and family, relationship problems, loss of libido and anxiety.
Problems with focusing or concentrating on various types of tasks or at work.
An increase in the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Feeling depressed during fall and winter.
Years back, my therapist at the time noticed I was suffering from SAD. I had no previous knowledge about SAD and so with learning and researching, I was relieved to know I was not alone. I purchased a light box and took the measures to treat the “blues” I was feeling holistically.
I love being outdoors, and exercising outdoors, and I have less tolerance for the cold these days. The winter on the East coast is challenging for me but I prepare myself mentally and do the best I can to make the most of the winter days. While I used to run outdoors even in single digit degree weather, I now take my run’s indoors if its less than 30 degrees out..I’m taking advantage of group workouts around NY to get an extra endorphin boost with more motivation.
I’m fortunate to have a home where I get plenty of sunlight, but on days when its gloomy out, I make sure to brighten up my home with artificial lighting. I play music that increases my moods and have it playing in the background. I listen to positive podcasts, and practicing gratitude daily helps tremendously.
Tips to Reduce or Prevent SAD Symptoms
The following tips are helpful for some patients affected by seasonal affective disorder:
~ Eat a low-fat diet that includes an adequate amount of protein, but not an excessive amount of protein. You should also eliminate sugar and carbs as much as possible.
~ Taking vitamins that contain magnesium, B complex, and minerals is helpful.
~ Increasing your amount of daily exercise increases your level of dopamines, as well as your energy level.
~Group Activity..engage in group social activities to get support from other’s
~Music :listening to upbeat music to lift your moods and stir up happy emotions.
~Take a walk in nature .. its proven that spending time in nature has benefits to relieve depression. Dress warm and take a walk through a park with observing the nature around you.
~Holy Basil/Tulsi : Holy Basil is a wonder herb with many amazing properties. You can purchase it in a tea form as well called Tulsi in Ayurveda.
Holy basil is a relatively well-studied herb, with research that has demonstrated that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress – both physical and emotional.
~ If your case of SAD is mild, try increasing the lighting in your home — leave the lights on instead of always turning them off to lower your utility bill. And whenever it’s sunny outside, spending extra time outdoors is often helpful.
If you have SAD, A wonderful option for treatment is light therapy. A preferred treatment for SAD, light therapy is effective for 60 to 80 percent of patients, with most noticing significant improvement within four to five days.
Special light boxes, designed for light therapy, can be purchased at many major home retail stores and online. In order to be effective, the lamp should have a power rating of at least 10,000 lux, which is equivalent to five to twenty times the normal lighting in your home or office. SAD lamps should be used everyday during the peak seasons in which this disorder occurs.
For effective treatment, you’ll need to sit in front of your light therapy lamp for at least 30 minutes daily.
Although most people prefer to use their lamps when they wake up in the morning, you can also do this in the evening. The time you pick to do your seasonal affective disorder treatment depends on you and the time of day that you feel it’s most effective.
If you suspect that you could be experiencing SAD, you should consult with a Dr. and get treatment so that you can live your life during the winter months with vitality and regain your joy and energy, for a more fulfilled life.