Are any of you feeling the impact of less light and shorter days on your mood and well being? I certainly am and I'm also hearing about it from my patients and friends. Ten to twenty percent of people have milder forms of depression associated with the onset of winter. This year I have gone all out—in the integrative sense—trying to support my own mood this winter and have had significant success. I wanted to share with all of you what I've learned from my research.
Why do some people tend to get sad in the winter? For starters, we're inside a lot more due to work and weather and typically that means less daylight exposure and fresh air. Those wonderful physical activities that keep us fit and happy during the summer are also more challenging as many sports and wilderness activities are curtailed by weather or early sunset. These changes can affect mood, quite seriously in some people. When the mood effect is significant, we call the problem Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by:
- Depression that starts in fall or winter
- Decreased interest in work or other activities
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
- Increased appetite with weight gain
- Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
- Lack of energy
- Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
- Social withdrawal
Does not sound like much fun does it? As if we needed help with carbohydrate cravings during the holiday season! So what can we do?!