Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that strikes during the long winter months, then seems to vanish during the spring and summer. It is thought to be related to depleted levels of either vitamin D or serotonin – a brain chemical that helps to regulate mood. As exposure to sunlight boosts both of these substances in the body, it is believed some individuals suffer a deficiency during the darker winter months. Another theory is that winter disrupts our circadian rhythms, or the body’s natural cycle of waking and sleeping. Whatever the culprit, if you find yourself suffering from the winter blues, here are some things you can do:
Given that most of the theories about the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder center on the decreased amount of sunlight, it makes sense that the condition can be treated with light. Light therapy products tend to fall into two categories. In the first category, you place a light box nearby, and sit in front of it for a short time each day. The bright light helps encourage the production of serotonin in your brain. Another option is a dawn simulator, which is a light source placed in your bedroom that slowly increases the amount of light as you wake up. This unit attempts to reassert your body’s circadian rhythm.
For another form of light therapy, you can head over to your local Chuze Fitness and spend some time in one of our gyms with tanning beds. The UVB rays provided by tanning beds produce vitamin D in your body, which may help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. However, remember that you should always be careful of over-tanning, as moderation is the key and too frequent tanning can be detrimental. Tanning occasionally can not only keep you looking great, but it might also help you feel great.
Exercising is one of the best ways to help yourself feel better. Research shows that exercise increases your levels of serotonin, and keeps them elevated for hours afterwards. Taking a walk or run outside might be even better, since you then benefit from both the workout and the natural sunlight, which is powerful even through a cloud cover. It might be hard to feel motivated to go outside when it is cold, but layer up and take a brisk walk around the block to see if you feel better when you get back!
When winter comes along with its cold, dark days, it can be easy to stay inside and start feeling grumpy or sad. Do not give in to the winter blues this year. Instead, keep these tips in mind and get back to feeling like yourself. And remember: SAD is a real condition. If these simple tips are not enough to help you feel better, it might be time to consult with a doctor to get the help you need to feel great year-round.