It’s wintertime once again which means there is more darkness than sunlight. For many people who are normally in good mental health, this time of year is depressing. Their mood changes when the season changes.
You might be surprised to know that there is a name for it, and it’s acronym is SAD. It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Some of the symptoms (of winter based SAD) include: sleeping too much; weight gain from unusual appetite changes such as cravings for sweets or carbohydrates; easily irritated; having very little energy.
According to an article by the Mayo Clinic Staff, there are some factors that may be involved in the cause of winter based SAD. These are:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
- Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
- Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
One of the treatments for winter based SAD is light therapy or “phototherapy”. It consists of a special light box that a person with SAD can sit in front of with their eyes open but not staring directly at it.
A less expensive treatment is to leave more lights on in one’s house when it starts getting dark. Going outside more often during the day when the sun is shining is also another great way to curb the symptoms.
Another treatment that some alternative medicine physicians suggest is taking certain supplements or herbs which help to treat depression such as St. John’s wort, SAMe or melatonin which is taken before bedtime.
These supplements may or may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. (Before starting them, always check with a pharmacist for possible drug interactions with certain medications.) Of course, mind-body therapies are ALWAYS a safe and natural alternative.
Of course, New Life offers all of them such as meditation, yoga, Reiki and massage therapy. Exercise is also a great alternative. NIA (non-impact aerobics) is a great way to shake the winter blues and have fun at the same time.
It’s like a dance class with upbeat fun music and a lot of moving and grooving too! It is also offered at New Life. Walking is always a good way to fight the blues. Just going to the mall and walking around can be stimulating.
Always remember that the days DO start getting longer and the nights shorter after December 22nd (the winter solstice), so before you know it, the sun will be shining earlier and earlier. In fact, spring is only a little over 2 months away! YAY!
Marie Pietras, LMT