If You Have the Blues in Winter, it Can be SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder
By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph. D.Winter weather, for most in the Northern Hemisphere, is cold, dark and dreary -with little chance of a break for several months. The transition back from theholiday season with its increased activity and social engagement - parties, giftgiving, family time, vacations - can be an emotional letdown, bringing on theJanuary blues. For some 10% of Americans, depression is exacerbated by"SAD," Seasonal Affective Disorder, triggered by the reduction in sunlight and thebrain's response to this underexposure.Sandwiched boomers may feel an even greater strain, with the extra pressures of caring for growing children and aging parents. If you think that you might haveSAD, consult your physician for an evaluation. A diagnosis can be made whenyour mood, energy level and motivation are all down during the winter months.You may be sleeping and eating more than usual, craving carbohydrates - thiscan lead to weight gain, which is depressing in itself.Both our genetic predispositions and life scripts color how we cope withchallenges. For these reasons, some people are more prone to SAD. Womenhave higher rates than men, making up over two-thirds of those diagnosed. If youare looking for strategies to help you cope with this disorder, here are 8 tips toget you started.
1. Get out in the sun, preferably for at least one hour a day.
Even if it's cold,bundle up and go for a walk during your lunch hour. Studies have shown thateven 20 minutes of exercise can lighten your mood for two hours. Remember thefun you had as a kid playing in the snow? You can still enjoy winter activities likeice skating or skiing. If you live in a warm climate, participate in your usualoutdoor exercise - jogging, biking, golf, hiking. And find a buddy to help you staymotivated.
2. Keep your home window coverings open to the light and your office welllit.
A small heliostat, a computer-controlled mirror device, can increase theamount of direct sunlight reflected into the room. The more daylight youexperience, the more your brain cells produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter thatcontributes to feelings of wellbeing.
3. Your physician may prescribe phototherapy using a special light box,typically during daytime hours.
It filters out most damaging UV rays, and thelight shining on the retina inhibits the production of the sleep regulating hormonemelatonin. A newer type of light therapy relies on LED technology - they'resmaller and easier to use.
4. If your despair continues or you have the signs of clinical depression,