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SAD Time of Year: Beating Winter Blues

Don't let the cold and gloomy weather get you down -- simple changes in diet and routine are among the ways to remedy the symptoms of "winter blues."

The holidays may be over, but winter is still upon us, which means a couple more months of short-lived daylight hours and cold temperatures. These elements can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -- also known as "winter blues." According to www.psychcentral.com, SAD is characterized by "feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the winter months."

Mayo Clinic research on www.mayoclinic.com says that SAD is found more often in women than men, but that men have more severe symptoms.

One theory of SAD is that reduced sunlight leads to decreased production of serotonin -- a chemical in the brain that has a calming effect. Lack of serotonin has the same effect as depression. One can expect fatigue, excessive desire to sleep, increased appetite or weight gain.

Fortunately there are ways to help keep the symptoms at bay. Here are four ways to beat the blues:

1. Rejuvenate in Minutes: Take a few minutes to practice restorative yoga. In addition to fighting stress, many restorative yoga postures bring warmth and awareness to the body. The book Yoga Nap by Kristen Rentz has over 50 restorative yoga poses, many of which take five minutes or less and only require simple household items such as a blanket or chair. There are also restorative yoga classes offered at the Pacific Cultural Center on Seabright Ave. Visit www.pacificcultural.org for more information.

2. No Wasting Daylight: On non-rainy days, take advantage of the limited amount of sunlight by stepping outside for a walk. It can be difficult to find the chance as the days are so short, but the Mayo Clinic assures that outdoor light can help remedy SAD -- even in cold or cloudy weather.

3. With a Little Help from your Friends: As difficult as it can be during depression, connecting with others is an effective way to manage SAD symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests making an effort to connect with people whose company you enjoy, stating that they can offer "support, a shoulder to cry on or a joke to give you a little boost."

4. Ditch the Junk Food: Although arguably the most overused piece of advice, studies show a link between depression and diet. Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky states that although more research is needed on this connection, research collected thus far suggests that poor diet "can make you more vulnerable to depression." A five year study of over 3,000 office workers revealed that those who ate a diet high in processed foods were more likely to report depression than those who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael A. Lewis January 23, 2013 at 10:11 PM
When I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, I had Seasonal Affective Disorder: winter blahs, summer hypers. In December, we had 1 1/2 hours of sunlight during the day. That's it. The rest of the time it was dark. Now I live in Santa Cruz. I don't have Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's never dark enough.
Ruth Kaiser February 24, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Great article. I bet more people are bothered by this than we realize. Do you know what percentage of adults have SAD? How about kids? I liked that the remedies were all so do-able.

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