It’s no coincidence that during the winter, many of us Canadians tend to lose our usual sunny dispositions. The combination of snow, cold and lack of sunshine just doesn’t work in our favour. Have you noticed yourself feeling a bit down this week?
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs over the winter months. SAD is found to start as early as the beginning of winter and can last up until the spring, although many Canadians tend to feel it most in mid-January. Symptoms of SAD include depression, fatigue, loss of interest, anxiety, irritability, an increased appetite for carbohydrates, and weight gain. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, SAD makes up 10% of all depression cases.
Why do I feel SAD?
Studies show that when we are exposed to sunlight, serotonin, the hormone that is in control of our moods, rises. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and anxiety, and those suffering from depression in the winter have been found to have low levels of this “happy hormone”. This could explain why most of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere feel a little blue in the winter. But luckily, there are some easy ways to help combat this feeling of sadness and help you get through the winter months:
Uncurl from the blanket
It may be hard to get up and go instead of curling up in a cozy blanket during the winter, but exercise can not only help in weight loss and a positive body image, but studies show that exercise releases endorphins which can result in positive thinking, making it effective in warding off the blues.
The lack of sunlight in winter also comes with a lack of vitamin D, and research is finding that the benefits of vitamin D extend far beyond bone health. It has been shown to play an important role in brain health, as vitamin D receptors are found in each and every cell in your brain. Those with low levels of vitamin D during the winter have an increased risk of showing symptoms of depression.
A vitamin D supplement such as Jamieson Vitamin D 1,000 IU is an essential and cost-effective way to help prevent vitamin D deficiency year-round, which can help reduce the risk of developing SAD. To read more about the benefits of vitamin D and how much is right for you, click here.
Eating to beat the winter blues
Eating a healthy balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates and protein can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk of the blood sugar crash that can cause fatigue and irritability. A diet rich in omega-3s can also help regulate mood and boost brain health. To read more about mood-boosting food, click here.
A light box is also an effective method for reducing the effects of SAD. Light boxes mimic outdoor light, giving the brain the sense that you are outdoors in the sun. Light boxes can be purchased at your local pharmacy or you can visit your family doctor for more information.
A proper sleep routine can ensure that your sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin, remains balanced. Not getting enough sleep can affect your sleep/wake cycle, and a disrupted sleep routine can leave you feeling sleepy, groggy and run-down the next morning. To establish a healthy sleep routine, make sure you go to sleep in complete darkness and at the same time each night.
If you find that you are struggling with serious symptoms of SAD, it’s important to speak to your doctor to discuss your concerns.
Do you find yourself a little sad in the winter? If so, please share with us how you cope with the winter blues.