The winter blues- no, it’s not the name of a band, or a local restaurant or a new coffee shop down the street, but rather a common syndrome that many people suffer from during the winter months. Although the name sort of belies the seriousness of this syndrome, many people experience the winter blues without even realizing it. It generally begins in the beginning of December. As the temperatures drop and the hours of sunlight dwindle with each passing day, you may start to develop feelings of sadness and depression. Seasonal affective disorder, the clinical name for the winter blues also referred to as SAD, may very well be the explanation behind the depression some people experience each winter.
Whereas the spring and summer months bring days filled with sunshine for hours on end, the winter months are much more gray, gloomy, and drab. Along with decreased motivation and the ability to concentrate, other identifiable symptoms of SAD include changes in appetite, moodiness, fatigue, and social withdrawal. Keep in mind, you might experience some of the symptoms mentioned above periodically or even on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are suffering from SAD. In any case, if you find yourself in need of a mood booster in the winter, a few remedies can be found below.
- Natural Sunlight
In some parts of the country, temperatures in the winter don’t exactly make for the best conditions to venture outside and one of the major reasons that people suffer from SAD during this time is the lack of exposure to sunshine. Therefore, to remedy this situation, it would be best to take advantage of the days when the sun does make an appearance and enjoy a leisurely walk outside. Even if it is just for 15 minutes, taking a walk while the sun is out can really do wonders and boost your mood. Not only does simply being outside in the sun help reduce your SAD symptoms, but walking and engaging in regular exercise are healthy habits that can also reduce your stress and improve your mood year-round.
- Light Box Therapy
Another remedy, indoor light therapy involving light boxes may be the solution to your winter blues. Your brain produces a light-sensitive hormone called melatonin that affects the body’s internal clock, mood, and appetite. When you use a light box, the production of melatonin is reduced, which in turn, helps combat the symptoms of SAD. The science behind light boxes is that they emit high intensities of light that mimic the effects of the sun’s natural rays. While the effects of light therapy can vary between individuals, research has found that daily use of light boxes for 30 minutes in the early morning have helped reduce or even completely eliminate symptoms after 2 weeks.
Before you begin implementing any of the suggested recommendations to combat your SAD symptoms, make sure to consult a health professional. Due to each individual’s different body composition and chemical make-up, these remedies may affect everyone differently.
Michelle Chen is a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. She plans to enter the field of medicine.
Photo Credit: Belen Rediet, Wikimedia Commons