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The Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder

As we make our way through winter, the days become shorter and there are fewer hours of sunshine. And as the level of sunlight drops our mood can also fall. And while feeling unenthusiastic about the cooler weather is normal, feeling very low isn’t.

The winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition where people who have a normal mood for most of the year experience depressive symptoms in winter. It’s estimated that up to 10% of the population experience persistent low mood over the dreary winter months, which can significantly disrupt their lives.

It’s natural during winter to feel low as a reaction to the persistent cold and dreary weather. Wintery conditions often mean that we have reduced opportunities to interact with the community as the cold keeps us indoors and reluctant to leave our warm cocoons.

People experiencing SAD may sleep more than usual, and they may have difficulty waking up in the morning. In addition, they may suffer from poor concentration and have little energy. Personal relationships are affected as well, with people spending less time with family and friends. The condition can also affect your appetite with people craving carbohydrates leading some to put on significant weight which can further exacerbate their low mood.

There are some treatments that have been successful in reducing the impact of the condition. These include light therapy with sunlight or bright lights (best in the morning), antidepressant medication, cognitive-behavioural therapy, ionized-air administration, and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin.

Tips to counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder

If this winter you suspect that SAD is impacting on your mood there are a number of things you can do to pick yourself up.

  1. Get as much sunlight as possible, even if it is just sitting at the window of a sunny morning
  2. Seek out warm opportunities for social interaction: invite friends and family over for a movie night, or catch up with friends over a warm hot chocolate
  3. Venture out to the cinema and warm up over a giant bucket of popcorn

Please note:  The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.

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