Winter is almost here. Not only is this a time for celebrations with loved ones, annoying Christmas music, and too many good things to eat – it’s also a time that, for many of us, is marked by the onset of the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of people all over the world every single year. Are you one of them?
Although researchers have discovered many linkages between environmental and physical factors, winter and depression, SAD is still a complex phenomenon that has more than one single cause. Here are the top four causes of depression in the winter — and what you can do about them.
1) Decreased sunlight. Sunlight stimulates the superchiasmatic nucleus in the brain, which in turn regulates our Circadian rhythms of sleeping and waking, including production of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. Make sure you get enough sunlight during the short winter days. If you can, spend at least 15 minutes outside everyday to make sure you’re soaking up enough of this valuable natural health aid.
2) Breathing stale and impure air. More and more studies are beginning to show that there’s a link between the air we breathe and the number of physical, mental and emotional ailments. Toxins, molds, pollens, and chemicals in our everyday home and office environments can create depressed emotional states. A solution for this is to purchase a large room air purifier for your living room or for your open plan corporate office. You can also purchase a smaller unit for your bedroom, as you’re bound to spend nearly 1/3 of your life sleeping in there. You can find personal air purifier reviews online to help you figure out which device suits you best.
3) Sedentary life. Who wants to go jogging in the dark? Not me! Most of us would rather spend our long winter evenings curled up with a good novel, watching movies with our sweethearts, or relaxing in the bathtub. Unfortunately, what this means is that we tend to slack off on our exercise regiments during the season. Exercise has been clinically shown to have the mitigating effect on winter depression, so don’t forget to get out there and get your daily dose of motion. Even a few minutes of walking is better than nothing. Take the stairs and walk whenever you can, and hit the gym after work if the thought of exercising outside in the dark is too much to handle.
4) Decreased vitamin D. Research has shown that decreased levels of vitamin D are linked to SAD. If you’re not getting enough sunlight each day (in the winter, most of us are not) you can purchase an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement at any health store or most major chain grocery stores. Follow the directions on the label to make sure you’re getting the right dose.
No one single solution can wipe away this complex problem all at once. Ideally, you should follow a regimen that combines light therapy, time outside, regular exercise and good nutrition, and proper nutritional supplementation. If you do, you’ll find that those feelings of unhappiness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, and other emotional malaise will cease to trouble you. In time, you can look forward to winter as what its meant to be: a time of joy and delight for everyone.
Bio: Author Kimberly Moore is an expert on nutrition, fitness, health and the outdoors. When she’s not blogging about these topics, she can usually be found outdoors hiking, biking or swimming.