How to lighten up the “winter blues”

seasonal effect disorderMany people simply accept that the winter months inevitably bring on darker moods, lethargy and weight gain.  Like hibernating bears, they curl up indoors and wait until the lighter days and warmer temperatures of spring rekindle their energy and interest in life.

However, there is no reason to suffer through months of low energy and depression any more.  Mood swings that correspond to the seasons, known in the medical community as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression, are now an accepted medical condition with an array of proven treatment options.

Although the causes of SAD are still mysterious, it appears that a reduction in sunlight can trigger a breakdown in the production of serotonin in the brain.  It is this lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter with a beneficial effect on brain chemistry, which trigger SAD’s many physical and mental effects.  The full list of SAD symptoms is lengthy, and includes: depression, hopelessness, anxiety, lethargy, social withdrawal, lack of interest in recreational or work-related activities, appetite changes, weight gain and trouble concentrating.

Getting treatment for SAD is important for two reasons.  First, it has an immediate effect on your overall quality of life, causing feelings of depression, sadness and loneliness.  In extreme cases, it can seriously restrict your life, preventing you from getting to work or taking part in social or recreational activities.  Secondly, it can have consequences for your long-term health.  SAD can depress your immune system, cause you to exercise less and encourage you to eat unhealthy foods and gain weight.  Even if your moods, weight and exercise regimen return to normal during the summer months, this constant fluctuation puts a strain on your health.

Fortunately, most people who are prone to SAD can ward off the condition by making changes in their lifestyle and, in some cases, by using light therapy and anti-depressant medication.  Try these winter mood-boosters:

  • Spend 15 to 20 minutes outside early in the morning when the light is strongest
  • Eat a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals to suppress the urge to binge on carbohydrates
  • Talk to your doctor about using light therapy (start in the fall season for best results)
  • Regulate your hormones naturally by exercising for 30 minutes each day
  • Use your BioMat daily to stimulate relaxation and boost energy levels