Beat the Winter Blues
Unless you are one of the smart ones who live in a warm state, the winter weather is here for most of us who live in the United States. Every year the winter ushers in cold temperatures, snow, ice, shorter days, and longer nights. However, that’s not all that the winter has to offer us.
The winter conditions don’t only affect our external environment, they also play an impact on our internal environment… our mental and physical health. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that plagues a lot of people when the temperatures start to drop, and the days become shorter.
The signs and symptoms of seasonal depression can be easily missed or ignored, however it is a condition that can be overcome with some awareness, and effort to do so. When the winter strikes (and seems to last FOREVER) do these three actions daily, and you will not only “survive” the winter, but you will thrive through the winter.
Don’t get SAD, get SWEATY
The first step to lessening the effects of SAD is to exercise daily. There has been tremendous amounts of research showing the positive effects that exercise has on individuals who are depressed. When someone exercises, they produce hormones called endorphins. The endorphins released during moderate to high-intensity workouts can temporarily increase your mood, helping with the short term effects of SAD. However, when exercise is done consistently (4-7 days per week) over time, research shows that there is an actual increase in the size of the hippocampus in the brain. As the hippocampus increases in size, there is an associated decrease in depression symptoms.
Many people are genetically predisposed to depression, and are born with the genes to have it. However, this study shows that even in people who were born with being genetically predisposed to depression can significantly reduce symptoms of depression through increased levels of physical activity.
Go Towards the Light
SAD is a universal issue that affects people across the world. The most affected are those who live in areas where there’s a seasonal time change, or in areas where there are extended periods of darkness – such as Alaska’s 24 hours of nighttime. Using artificial light therapy can help negate the negative effects of being exposed to less light in your natural environment.
There are multiple types of light therapy devices that are available, ranging from light boxes that you can place in front of you while working, to SAD light car visors to use while driving. Light therapy is shown to help improve the brain chemicals that are linked to mood, and sleep. It has also been shown to help other diagnosed conditions such as depression and sleep disorders. The amount of light therapy needed is only about 15-30 minutes a day to start seeing changes to your SAD symptoms.
More D3 for Me
Vitamin D3 has become a buzzword over the last couple of years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Low levels of Vitamin D3 have shown to be linked to many physical problems such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, migraines, chronic pain, and a more severe outcome from Covid-19. In addition to all of the physical issues that come with insufficient Vitamin D, it has also been linked to many psychological issues as well.
Low levels of Vitamin D3 have been found in people with disorders such as depression, anxiety, and SAD. The natural source that we get our Vitamin D3 from is sunlight, so it makes sense that Vitamin D3 levels would be lower in people that live in colder climates, and areas of less sunlight. A study out of the University of Georgia correlated low levels of Vitamin D3 in people who were reporting to have SAD. If you live in an area that lacks sunlight for a part of the year, taking a Vitamin D3 supplement can potentially help with the symptoms of SAD that come along with the lack of sunlight exposure.
You’re Not Alone
SAD, and depression in general affects millions of people worldwide… including myself.