Do you feel depressed and anxious during the winter months? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? Do you have trouble sleeping? You could just have a case of the winter blues, or it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The winter months can lead to a vicious cycle of overeating, excessive drinking, headaches and insomnia. If you are prone to the winter blues, plan a massage or trip on the third Monday in January. “Blue Monday”, as it’s called, is thought to be the most depressing day of the year.
If your symptoms are serious, see your doctor. They can tell you if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression which reacts to changes in the weather. People with SAD usually experience symptoms from the fall until the end of winter. But SAD can also occur in the Spring or Summer.
Whether you have a bad case of the winter blues or the more serious SAD, there are many things you can do to feel better. Increasing your exposure to natural light reduces stress. Your production of Melatonin and Serotonin is affected by light exposure. Melatonin is a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin regulates your mood and your levels of anxiety and happiness.
It’s best to get as much indoor daylight as possible, as well as getting outdoors daily. Going for a walk outside within two hours of waking up is ideal. Another option is to use a light box, which mimics sunshine and is stronger than light bulbs, or a dawn simulator.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin. Your body can produce vitamin D with cholesterol when exposed to sunlight. As little as ten minutes of sunshine daily can greatly enhance your mood. A vitamin D deficiency and lack of exposure to sunlight can contribute to a SAD diagnosis. When you are low on vitamin D, the levels of your hormones Melatonin and Serotonin are also reduced.
Working It Out
One of the best things you can do to fight SAD and other types of depression is to exercise. Working out boosts Endorphins, Serotonin and other feel-good hormones. These chemicals reduce your perception of pain and act much the way Morphine does to de-stress you. Physical activity can be as effective at treating depression as antidepressants. In the case of SAD, exercising outside is best.
Another way to treat or prevent SAD is with a healthy diet. You want to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D from foods such as salmon, eggs and milk. Omega-3 fatty acids, Magnesium and vitamin C can also help keep depression at bay. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, walnuts and flaxseed oil. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, avocado, almonds and bananas. Chili peppers, thyme, kale, broccoli and kiwis are all good sources of vitamin C.
If you are experiencing SAD, medical treatment is your best line of defense. Light therapy, medication and psychotherapy are possible treatments. Vitamin D, Melatonin and St. John’s Wort are sometimes recommended by doctors when treating this illness.
The winter months can be tough on us. Frigid temperatures, limited sunlight and holiday stress can sometimes get the better of us. But there is a lot you can do to feel better and to stay healthy, happy and productive. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, light exposure and stress management can make a world of difference.
The Health Coaches at Golden Home Fitness can tailor a workout program perfect just for you. We can go to your home, condo or office, train you virtually or train you in our studio. The choice is yours to make, and the results you achieve will make you feel as good as you will showing them off on the Fourth of July!
For your free in-person or virtual workout with a Golden Home Fitness Personal Trainer, click here.
We wish you a happy and healthy winter season!
www.mayoclinic.org; medicalnewstoday.com; www.nccih.nih.gov; www.inc.com; www.everydayhealth.com; www.nimh.nih.gov; medlineplus.gov; www.therecoveryvillage.com; wa-health.kaiserpermanente.org; healthline.com; helpguide.org; medicinenet.com; unitypoint.org