Winter can be a tough time for all of us, especially if you reside in a cold climate. Being stuck inside unable to participate in outdoor actives can result in feeling trapped or suffocated, or simply force you to be more sedentary. In any case, when the temperatures dip and sunshine is limited, it can be a challenge to feel positive, and the winter blues can set in rather quickly.
But when do the winter blues become more than simply a reaction to shorter days and colder temperatures? Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real, and affects more than 3 million people each year. Major Depression also affects millions of people in the United States. Look over the lists below to see if you need to consult with a doctor or therapist.
Some Symptoms of Major Depression
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Having very low energy
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having problems sleeping or staying asleep
- Experiencing big changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling super sluggish or agitated frequently
- Having difficulty concentrating
Some Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Having low energy
- Weight gain
- Craving carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal (or isolating yourself from others)
The causes of SAD are unknown, but research has found some biological clues:
People with SAD may have trouble regulating one o the key neurotransmitters involved with mood and serotonin.
People with SAD may overproduce the hormone, melatonin.
People with SAD may also produce less Vitamin D.
Some treatments for SAD include:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D
Also, as I point out in my book, there are ways of managing feelings of sadness and low-mood, which can be especially prevalent in the winter months. Some of them include being sure to take a walk outside when the sun is shining, discovering indoor activities which are pleasurable to you, and including some type of physical activity in your daily life. Most important, is to be conscious of your thoughts, and recognizing when your thoughts are negative.
Thinking positively has been proven to increase positive mood. Although it can be a challenge to think this way, if you’re not used to it, this way of thinking can be learned. The quickest way to learn how to do this, is to keep a thought journal. Write your thoughts down at the end of the day or throughout the day if you can. Then, after a few days look back on those thoughts and analyze those thoughts. Are they mostly positive, mostly negative, a combination of both? Take note of the negative thoughts and try to replace those with more positive ones. If this sounds like something you’re super interested in, you can learn much more about this when you read Dr. David Burns,M.D., book, Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy.
Information and statistics on SAD provided by National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from here.