If you tend to feel a little more depressed or SAD during the winter months, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). During the winter, the days become shorter so we are exposed to less natural sunlight and tend to move our bodies less. People who are particularly sensitive to light (or the lack of light) may be more prone to suffer from this condition.
Winter depression can show itself in any number of ways. Symptoms of SAD may include:
• Crying spells
• Lack of energy
• Desire to stay home
• Weight gain
You may not even realize that you are suffering from SAD because the symptoms can be negligible as they begin but then gradually increase to something more serious – even leading to thoughts of suicide. If you have been experiencing the winter blues, there are things you can start doing immediately to promote winter happiness:
• Schedule a physical exam to make sure your symptoms are not the result of an underlying medical condition.
• Investigate light therapy to mimic sunlight. Simply having access to a light box for 30 minutes every day may reverse your symptoms. Check with a doctor prior to starting this therapy.
• Get off the couch and exercise. Find a physical activity that brings you enjoyment and try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Partner with a friend for extra motivation.
• Go outside – even if it’s cold – during the daylight hours for a few minutes every day.
• Remove processed foods and excess sugar from your diet. Choose colorful vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats to give your body clean fuel.
• Limit alcohol consumption.
• Maintain a regular sleep pattern.
• Schedule time to hang out with friends. Laughter can go a long way to increasing your mood.
• Practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga.
If your mood has changed this winter, contact Dr. Marilyn Kutzscher to determine if SAD is to blame. Her San Francisco office can be reached by calling 415-923-3560 or visiting marilynkmd.com.