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Don’t Let SAD Spoil Your Winter

December 12th, 2023

For many people, winter is an enjoyable season filled with outdoor activities, hot chocolate, fires in the fireplace, snuggling up with a good book, and the like.

But for an estimated 20 million Americans, winter is synonymous with Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD).

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Because SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months, people often refer to it as the “winter blues”.

In many ways, SAD is similar to other forms of depression in that it results in the following symptoms:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Disinterest in activities
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

What sets SAD apart from other forms of depression is its seasonality. People with SAD experience depression during the fall and winter months, with their symptoms improving during the spring and summer.

The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood. However, experts believe it has something to do with disruptions to circadian rhythm that occur during the darker months of the year. It may be that in some people, these disruptions to circadian rhythm cause imbalances in serotonin and melatonin (with these two hormones playing important roles in mood regulation).

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Unfortunately, there is no cure for SAD, per se.

However, there are several steps you can take to reduce its effects. These include:

  1. Light Therapy (or Phototherapy) : Despite researchers not knowing the precise cause of SAD, there is some consensus around a lack of sunlight being the primary culprit.As a consequence, light therapy can be an effective way to trick your brain into thinking the days are longer than they really are.

    A light therapy box emits bright light that is similar to sunlight. SAD patients typically spend 20-30 minutes per day in front of a light box to relieve the worst symptoms of SAD.

  2. Get Outside : Natural light is even better than a light box. And the best place to get natural light is outside.Even if you feel lousy, try to get outside regularly. Just a few minutes of natural light, even on cloudy days, can go a long way toward keeping SAD symptoms under control.
  3. Regular Exercise : Exercise is a natural mood booster because it stimulates the release of endorphins, those “feel good” hormones that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Incorporating physical activity into your day that you enjoy can help combat the lethargy often associated with SAD.
  4. Maintain a Healthy Diet : Nutrition plays an important role when it comes to good mental health. Focus on a well-balanced diet rich in lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.Also, research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D may possess mood-elevating properties. Both nutrients can be taken in supplement form if needed.
  5. Stay Socially Connected : Friends and family can be an important safety net when it comes to SAD (or any other form of depression).Make a conscious effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Even a phone or video call can be enough to stave off feelings of isolation.

    Other options for facilitating connectedness include joining a club, taking a class, volunteering, or getting involved in your community.

  6. Create a Light-Friendly Environment : Keep your curtains open during the day and arrange your furniture such that natural light can flow into your living and workspaces. Using light-colored paint on walls and strategically positioned mirrors can also help.
    In short…capitalize on every opportunity to brighten the interior of your home and/or workspace.
  7. Follow the Sun : It’s no accident that many people who suffer from SAD follow the birds south for the winter. But even vacationing for a week or two someplace closer to the equator can give your mind and body the break it needs to get through winter.
  8. Check Your Hormone Levels : With age, hormone production declines.Symptoms associated with hormone imbalances include fatigue, irritability, and depression. In other words, the symptoms of hormone imbalance can exacerbate the symptoms of SAD.

Have your hormone levels checked for imbalances. If needed, hormone replacement therapy can help to restore hormones to healthy levels.

Be Proactive About SAD

By being proactive, symptoms of SAD can be combatted and the winter blues can be conquered.

At Renew Youth, we’re here to help you manage any barriers to good health and vitality. To learn more, call Renew Youth at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.

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