Ever thought, "Why am I feeling more depressed in the winter months?" Well, this could be due to winter blues or, also known as, seasonal affective disorder.
It is common in many individuals around the world mostly during the winter months but fortunately, the condition can be prevented and treated with adequate knowledge. According to Psychology Today, this condition affects almost 10 million Americans and is most likely to onset between 18-30 years. Let’s read on and understand what is winter blues or seasonal affective disorder, how to prevent it and what treatment options are available.
What are the Winter Blues?
Winter Blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a feeling of depression that may occur at the same time of the year, every year. It is usually during the winter months or the fall season when the days get darker. SAD can affect some individuals during the summer season and is known as summer depression. However, it is prevalent in the dark days of the winter months and hence known as winter blues. It may start to begin at the time of fall or earlier and tend to intensify during the winter months. Even though winter blues may fade naturally towards the end of the season during the spring, it may affect some individuals to a higher degree and can affect their day to day activities.
The symptoms include:
*A feeling of depression that remains for the most of the day
*Low energy levels and loss in daily activities
*Difficulty in focus and concentration
*Sleep problems, mainly oversleeping
*Changes in your weight and appetite
*A constant feeling of hopelessness
*Thoughts of suicide
The symptoms can be mild for most individuals and may fade away as the season passes, however some individuals may experience severe symptoms and may require a visit to the doctor. So, if you are unable to get uplifted or motivated, even doing things and activities that you enjoy most or if you are having suicidal thoughts, you must immediately visit your doctor.
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
The exact cause of winter blues is unknown, however, researchers think that it is due to the trigger of certain hormones in the brain that causes mood fluctuation and depression at a certain time of the year. According to research published in the US National Library of Medicine, the release of serotonin in the brain is found to be lowest during the winter season.
Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood and its production is directly linked with luminosity, hence when the days get darker, the production of serotonin in the brain falls causing depression. This further leads to fatigue and loss of concentration. The winter days also cause over-production of melatonin which may lead to tiredness and loss of energy. This makes people unable to regulate sleep thereby causing oversleeping.
With proper treatment, you should start feeling better in a few days if not immediately. However, if you find yourself struggling with SAD every year, you may take preventive steps to avoid worsening your condition.
Here are a few ways you may prevent or treat winter blues or seasonal affective disorder:
#1- Get Enough Vitamin D
According to research published in the US National Library of Medicine, Vitamin D deficiency is likely to occur during the winter season. It is found that low levels of this vitamin in the body may cause depression. Therefore, maintaining its level becomes very important if you want to prevent or treat SAD. To increase your vitamin D levels, you may expose your body to direct sunlight for a certain amount of time each day. It will naturally help your body to produce vitamin D. However, it is important to avoid overexposure or directly staring at the sun to avoid any damage to the skin and the sun.
You may also take a vitamin D3 supplement on a regular basis to keep your maintain your vitamin D levels. Check out vitamin D3 supplements here.
Exercise may have a great effect on minimizing winter blues. Even though you may feel like staying home and not working out often, exercising can boost the feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin levels in your brain. It not only helps in treating the condition but can also help in preventing it in the first place. Besides, outdoor exercise can expose your body to daylight or sunlight which may extend the benefits. Try rhythmic exercises such as walking, swimming, dancing, weight training, etc to ensure movement of your whole body.
#3- Maintain B12 Vitamins
Vitamin B12 is another vitamin that may help in combating the depression and mood swings associated with SAD. According to Psychology Today, the B-complex vitamins promote the conversion of proteins in your diet to serotonin and other mood chemicals. B vitamins such as folate and vitamin B12 helps in treating depression. It also improves heart health and improves your ability to cope with stress. Therefore, supplementing your body with vitamin B12 or eating foods high in B complex vitamins will not only prevent but also treat the condition in a natural way. Here are some great B12 Vitamins.
#4- Boost up with Omega-3 fatty acids
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acid, which is found in fish oil is a great way to treat mood disorders. Due to this reason, depression is less common in regions where people consume a lot of fish. Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA along with docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is known to be highly effective in treating mood swings and depression. Hence, adding an Omega-3 and DHA supplementcan help you in an excellent. Your body will be able to use the easily available EPA and DHA, which has the ability to pass through the brain cell membrane and reduce mood disorders.
Turmeric may act as a natural antidepressant and help you get rid of the seasonal affective disorder. Several studies show that depression is caused by inflammation as well as oxidative stress. Since turmeric has high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that not only fight inflammation but oxidative stress too. For those who want to take this benefit may use a high-quality supplement on a regular basis during the winter months. Check out this great Organic Turmeric Supplement here.
#6- Light Therapy
Another way to deal with SAD is Light Therapy. Since winter blues is mainly caused due to low daylight, it disrupts your natural circadian rhythm. This happens due to excessive production of melatonin by the brain that makes you feel tired and sleepy. A light therapy that is able to mimic the outdoor light helps in altering the brain chemicals thereby limiting melanin production. Once you start the therapy, you may start to see changes in your mood in a few days’ time, however, it is advisable to take this therapy under medical guidance to avoid any complications.
#7- Relaxation techniques
Certain mind-body techniques may help in calming the mind and help you deal with winter blues. These techniques help in relieving stress and prepare your body to better cope with the condition. You may try meditation to reduce stress and anxiety which is likely during winter months. In addition to this, yoga and tai chi may prove as an excellent relaxation technique to deal with mood swings. Music and art therapy may also help in boosting your mood and make you feel better.
Besides the above ways to deal with winter blues or seasonal affective disorder, you may take the help of medicines after talking to your healthcare provider. Certain antidepressants may work well to reduce the symptoms temporarily. It is important to take medical advice before starting any therapy or supplement. A doctor would be able to understand your condition and provide you the right suggestion after evaluating your overall health, age and gender.