Winter doldrums

Seasonal affective disorder real threat during winter months

By David L. Podos

Feeling down, got the blues, your back aches, your head aches; actually, just about everything aches on you.

You seem to be in a fog, can’t concentrate, your edgy, anxious, and perhaps depressed.

Sounds like recovering from a night of partying too hard and not getting any sleep, maybe you have the flu, but in this case — no. Your condition is not from lack of sleep, imbibing in too much of your favorite drink or from catching a nasty cold.

You feel miserable because it’s lousy outside, it’s early morning but you wouldn’t know it because it’s still dark in your room.

Cloud cover is so thick and hangs so low, that no amount of light — however meek it may be — will be getting through. It’s also cold, just enough to turn the rain into snow or sleet.

As you turn your radio on and the local weather forecast blares out, it doesn’t sound pretty. This is definitely not going to be a sunny and warm day at all. You just want to roll over and hide away under the covers, but you have to get to work.

When it comes to our emotional as well as physical well-being and health, the weather certainly has an impact upon us. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a condition that affects those who live in climates where there is a preponderance of more cloudy than sunny days. Many people in the Northeastern part of the United States suffer from this condition that is clearly related to weather conditions, and most pronounced by lack of sunshine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends about the same time each year — symptoms start in the fall and finish at winter’s end.

According to clinical psychologist Vinita Mehta of Psychology Today, the sun affects a large part of how we function, a lot of times in ways we don’t even realize. According to Mehta, sunlight provides an extremely powerful boost to human livelihood.

Sunlight makes us more generous.

According to studies that tested how sunlight affects a driver’s willingness to pick up hitchhikers, people were much more likely to lend a helping hand under sunny conditions when compared to cloudy ones.

From the statistical data provided by the study, investigators proposed sunlight directly affects our mood.

“Sunshine makes our moods more positive, and it also encourages us to be more helpful,” Mehta said.

Finding solutions

On the contrary, winter has the tendency to make us feel more negative. According to Carolyn Gregoire of Huffington Post, SAD is a real thing.

“Although you might not think much of your wintertime blues, SAD can leave people feeling lethargic and apathetic for many months,” Gregoire said.

What can we do to stay motivated, in sync, and energetic when days grow shorter, reducing our exposure to natural sunlight? As the temperature also begins to drop, we instinctively begin to feel the need to cocoon.

There are some simple choices we can make that can have profound positive effects on us. Whether you are one of those people who deal with SAD, or like most of us, find ourselves a bit grumpier, inpatient, and just overall down in the dumps during the change of weather from fall to winter, here’s some research suggestions.

— Tanning: Tanning beds today — while still posing health risks — are far better than the tanning beds of yesteryear.

Studies show tanning in moderation can and does reduce depression because of the increased production of vitamin D that happens once the body is exposed to natural sunlight or tanning. Most people’s vitamin D levels drop drastically during the late fall and winter season and more so if you happen to live in the Northeastern part of the U.S.

— Supplementation of vitamin D3: It’s best to contact your health care provider or a registered dietitian for dosage strength.

— Eating well: Reduce sugar and empty carbohydrate foods from your diet, and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible.

— Exercise: Even moderate exercise done on a frequent basis has enormous health benefits.