Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter blues or winter depression, affects people who have normal mental health most of the year but get depressed in the cold months or even during the fall.
Almost 3 percent of Americans are affected by SAD. But most people don’t even know that they’re depressed and attribute their change in behavior to the weather.
SAD symptoms are usually manifested when there is less sunlight during the day in the colder months of fall and winter, start out as mild or moderate but can become severe, Dr. Joseph Mercola explains.
You may experience the winter blues throughout the year if you work long hours indoors in an office with few windows for sunlight to pass through. Some people even experience mood changes during long stretches of cloudy weather.
You may be suffering from SAD if you often feel fatigued, crave foods rich in carbohydrates, lack enthusiasm in doing normal activities, have difficulty diffusing tension and dealing with stress, find it difficult to concentrate, feel socially withdrawn, and experience weight gain.
Don’t let SAD put you down, especially during the holidays. Here are Dr. Mercola’s simple steps to fight seasonal depression:
• Avoid grains and sugars – Grains and sugars increase your risk of insulin resistance, which is associated with depression.
• Exercise – Sweat it out to produce endorphins, which help promote a sense of well-being by reducing pain and stress.
• Laugh – Like exercise, laughter releases endorphins to give you painkilling effects similar to morphine.
• Meditate and pray.
• Optimize your levels of omega-3 fats – These essential fatty acids can help improve your emotional health. Mercola recommends animal sources like high quality krill oil and fish oil.
• Skip the bottle – Avoid alcohol because drinking will only depress you more.
• Sleep early – Our bodies are designed to go to sleep when the sun sets. In the winter, however, you may want to hit the sack earlier to preserve this biological pattern and avoid disrupting delicate hormonal cycles in your body.
• Socialize – No man is an island. It’s bad enough to be depressed so go find good company that can help cheer you up.
• Try light therapy – There are small portable lamps called light boxes that produce artificial full-spectrum light which mimic outdoor light to help improve your mood.