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LGLWSM Newsletter 032 - Seasonal Affective Disorder – Making the Best of Dull, Gray Days
January 29, 2010

This winter has been one of the coldest seasons I can ever remember where I live. The beach is not supposed to get this cold! If it’s cold where you live, you are probably in the deep freeze too, but long winter months can also bring on ‘winter blues’. Staying inside the house to beat the cool temps outside is fine only for the first few weeks, then it becomes harder and harder to deal with as time rolls on.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood altering disorder that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms typically start in the fall and continue through the winter months. SAD can put you in a negative mood and zap all your energy. Hibernating like a bear can really bring out the worst in most people!

Even in places like the coast of NC (where I live), people are just as susceptible to winter blues. Its not so much about the lack of temperature as much as it is living without sunlight for prolonged lengths of time.

Symptoms of SAD include, but are not confined to, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, oversleeping, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating or processing information. Its normal to feel down in the dumps sometimes, but its not normal for these emotions to carry on for more than just a few days.

Since most people spend much of their time indoors working during the winter, seeing the sun or getting enough sunlight can really become a problem. By the time most people get off work, the sun has gone to sleep and it’s already dark outside.

Sometimes having the winter blues requires medical intervention. If you notice changes in your sleep patterns, your appetite changes for the worst, you have thoughts of suicide, or you turn to alcohol more than you should, you may need counseling.

The Cause of Winter Blues

The specific cause of SAD is relatively unknown, although its likely to be a combination of genetics, age, and your body’s natural chemistry. There are however, a few factors that may come into play.

  • Biological Clock – The reduced exposure to sunlight may disrupt your internal clock, which lets you know when it’s time to sleep or stay awake.

  • Melatonin – The change in seasons can affect your melatonin levels, which play a vital role in sleep patterns and mood. Taking melatonin supplements may be an option.

  • Seratonin – An impressive drop in seratonin, a brain chemical that also affects mood, might also play a role. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in seratonin, which can lead to depression.

    Treatment for Winter Blues

    The change in hours of sunlight has a direct effect on people with SAD. The further north you live, the more likely you are to experience their negative affluence. This is because the winter tends to last much longer in these areas and is much harsher. The more snow and ice on the roads, the more you feel trapped. Overcast skies and the dullness of the winter months can lead to feelings of isolation and abandonment. Feeling blue can be directly affected by your surroundings.

  • The most effective and reliable treatment available is light therapy. Light boxes are commercially available and use florescent lights that are brighter than indoors lights but not as bright as natural sunlight.

    Using lights may sound like ‘old school’ but they really do work well. To ward off depression, they must be used regularly and given enough time to work.

  • Antidepressants also work well for some people. Some people notice improvements in just a week while it may take longer for other people to respond.

  • Of course, one obvious answer is to get active. Exercise increases endorphins that make you feel good. It also increases your energy levels so you don’t have to become a couch potato. The weather outside my be glum and depressing, but you don’t have to be!

    Whatever you do, don't let the winter make you blue! Winter is a wonderful time of the year to reflect and plan for the future. Start a journal, pick up a book you've been meaning to read, spend time with loved ones or family members, snuggle up by a warm fire, play music that motivates you, or join an online forum. There are always plenty of things you can do to beat of the effects of the winter blues!

    Until Next Time!

    Stay Sweet and Be Beautiful!


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