Beat the Fall and Winter Blues
November 16, 2017
Many people feel a little blue during fall and winter. For some, it has to do with summer ending and the change in weather, signaling that vacation is over.
For others, the symptoms go far beyond feeling sad that summer is over. These people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that accompanies changes in the seasons. People with good mental health throughout most of the year will start showing depressive symptoms in the fall and winter months.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This kind of depression is easily dismissed because it starts out mild but worsens as the season progresses. Its signs and symptoms are typical depression symptoms such as low energy, loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
SAD doesn’t actually appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) – the big book therapists use to diagnose patients. For this reason, many experts refer to it as a form of depression with a seasonal pattern. However, they recognize that it’s a real condition that cannot be dismissed as “winter sadness.”
How to Beat the Blues
Serious cases of SAD require medication, psychotherapy and phototherapy. However, and here’s the good news, less serious cases can be resolved through lifestyle and environment changes.
The cause of “winter blues” remains unknown but scientists think that the decrease in daylight disrupts the body’s internal clock, leading to feelings of sadness.
This is why you should get as much daylight as possible. Open the blinds and sit closer to the windows.
Artificial light can also be very useful in remedying this situation. And get this, sitting next to a light box for 30 minutes every day is just as effective as taking medication.
You might also consider investing in a dawn simulator, a device that causes your bedroom lights to gradually brighten in the morning. It’s especially useful for people who struggle to wake up in the morning.
Eat Better and Exercise
Poor food choices can make SAD much worse. Coffee and soda may make you feel better for a while but ultimately make your symptoms worse.
Eat regular meals to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent cravings. Add tryptophan-rich foods such as oats, nuts and seeds to your diet. Tryptophan is necessary for the production of serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood.
Walking fast for about 35 minutes a day, five days a week can relieve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. It’s even better if you can exercise under bright light as opposed to ordinary light.
It’s hard not to feel blue when you spend all your time indoors. Get into the habit of spending time outdoors even when it’s chilly. Take a walk or something!
Many people feel a little blue in the fall and winter, so it’s not all in your head. In fact, we could all benefit from brighter lights, better diet, exercise and spending more time outdoors during these months.