In Indiana it’s easy for anyone, at some point, to feel those “winter blues”. We experience several months of cold, wintery weather yielding shorter daylight hours and longer hours of darkness. What most people don’t realize is that this change may actually alter brain chemistry. Experts believe that the hormones melatonin and serotonin, both triggered by light exposure, may be involved in a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of people in the U.S.; adults, teens, and children alike. It usually begins in the late fall and can continue until summer. This condition is marked by changes in sleep, mood, and eating, low levels of energy, lack of enjoyment, and difficulty focusing. Someone experiencing SAD may also exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during the winter months such as less socializing with friends, isolation, and disappointment. Take note that anyone could be suffering with some degree of SAD and not know it.
Although SAD is fairly common, it is also a serious condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor or mental health professional. However, listed below are a few tricks to help prevent SAD and alleviate some of those “blue” feelings.
- Let there be light. Since this condition is triggered by a lack of light exposure, maintain as much natural light as possible during winter months. Open the curtains, blinds, whatever it may be, and let the sunshine in. On those cloudy, dreary days keep surroundings as well lit as possible because even unnatural light sources can affect one’s mood.
- Get moving! Exercise is a natural mood-lifter. Even when performed periodically for a few minutes at a time, exercise improves one’s mood and ability to focus. Taking a few minutes throughout the day to exercise and recharge ‘the batteries’ can provide great benefits.
- Be patient. If friends, family members, coworkers, or whoever it may be, are not behaving normally, take the time to determine the true source of the problem. It’s easy to assume that someone isn’t trying or may be slacking off. However be patient and use intuition to determine the true source of this behavior, keeping in mind that anyone, at any given time, could be one of many affected by SAD.