Cool breezes, colored leaves, hot cocoa, family gatherings, and holiday preparation. Sounds like a perfect Hallmark movie scene.
Fall and winter are full of excitement, unless you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Everyone has ups and downs. However, SAD is mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. For most people that experience SAD, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months.
Researchers still don’t know the exact cause of SAD, but there are some factors that come into play:
- Internal clock (circadian rhythm): The reduced amount and level of sunlight may cause winter SAD by disrupting your internal clock.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that impacts mood and sleep. The change in season may disrupt the body’s natural balance of melatonin.
- Serotonin: Serotonin is the brain chemical that affects mood. When the amount of sunlight decreases, so can your serotonin levels. When serotonin levels decreases, your mood can also drop.
What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD often appears as sadness or depression. You may have an increased need to sleep or even struggle to get out of bed in the morning (more than other times of the year).
You may also notice a decrease in energy and concentration, and this can affect your productivity at work and at home.
SAD can cause you to feel sluggish or agitated and event lose interest in activities you once enjoyed.
Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If you think that you may be one of the millions of people who are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, you will be happy to know that you can do something about it. Everyone is different so try different options until you find one or a combination that works for you:
- Light therapy: Up to 85% of winter depression sufferers are helped by simply sitting under a therapy light. The bright light stabilizes the out-of-balance chemicals in your body, helping you to feel less depressed and more like yourself. The best lights are those between 2,500 and 10,000 lux.
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is frequently referred to as “The Sunshine Vitamin” because your body produces it when exposed to sunlight. In fact, just 20-30 minutes of sunlight will produce 10,000 – 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D. Why is this important? Vitamin D is actually a hormone that has important roles in supporting a healthy heart, cellular replication, immune system, mood & mental health, muscles, blood sugar levels, and more!
- Exercise: Exercise is a powerful player in the fight against SAD. When you exercise, your body releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals cause you to feel happy, confident and bring about a feeling of well-being. The elated feelings that endorphins bring are comparable to the feelings that morphine and heroin create. To release endorphins, you will need to sustain your workout for about 30 minutes.
- Dawn Simulators: Unlike the spring months, in which the light of dawn and dusk changes gradually, the winter months bring a much more abrupt change of light. This may be one of the aggravators of SAD. Try a dawn simulator. These appliances can be programmed, much like an alarm clock, to gradually brighten your room each morning before you wake up. Some SAD sufferers have had great success with dawn simulators.
You are not alone if you are beginning to feel depressed with the shortened days that we are experiencing. Experiment with some of the treatment options and especially start exercising.
One way to help motivate yourself to exercise to to keep a journal. Check out Habit Nest’s Body Goals Journal. This journal is a great resource to give you all the tools you need to begin a new habit/routine. For more info, go here: http://bit.ly/2Qv9NzR
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