If your outlook on things gets darker as the winter comes on, it may be more than a case of the "winter blahs." The longer nights and shorter days disrupt natural cycles and your body signals you to sleep more, move less and crave sweets and heavy comfort foods. For some people, it results in seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that may require treatment.
Gary Carlson, MD, Allina Medical Clinic - Northfield, and Henry Emmons, MD, integrative psychologist at the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing, share five tips for raising your mood.
Exercise is the best antidote for SAD. Get your heart pumping with vigorous exercise.
2. Light and sleep
Go to sleep and get up at the same times each day.
Your body releases melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, one to two hours after sunset, but the effects wear off. So you may get sleepy early in the evening and not be able to sleep later.
Bright light (from a light box) or vigorous exercise between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. can delay melatonin release, making it easier for you to go to sleep at your regular bedtime.
A dawn simulator or light box used in the early morning can help you avoid morning sluggishness.
3. Summer food
“Eat like it’s summer,” recommends Emmons.
Summer’s vegetable and lean protein choices will make you feel better in winter, too.
4. Don’t hibernate
Get out and see people and make connections. Don’t isolate yourself.
To counter the changes in food, sunlight and sleep, Emmons recommends taking a B-complex vitamin, omega-3 or fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium and a tonic herb called rhodiola for the winter months.
When to see your doctor for SAD
See your doctor if you're having trouble coping with SAD.
When to get help. Learn more about whether you should make an appointment.