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Are you affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder?

10 Ways to Shake the Blues

The reason many people suffer from the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is not fully understood. But it is thought to be caused by decreased exposure to natural sunlight. Normally, people who live in California and Florida, where it is sunny and warm for most of the year, experience S.A.D. less frequently. On the other hand, people who live in the northern states have a higher occurrence of S.A.D. because they experience colder temperatures and less daylight.

Symptoms of the winter blues and S.A.D are similar. Some of the signs include depression, fatigue, sleeping more than usual, craving extra carbs and sweets, loss of interest in normal activities, crying, and sadness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, here are a few ways to turn that frown upside down. Also, consult your healthcare provider before starting any new program.

1, Light therapy

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell.

Do you remember singing that tune? The amount of light that you receive can have a direct effect on the chemicals, serotonin and melatonin that help to regulate the hypothalamus in the brain. It also controls all vital functions such as breathing, sleeping, temperature control, and mood. The hypothalamus is responsible for our circadian rhythm also known as our body clock. In the winter months, the days we get sunlight are shorter and nights are longer, so the body may have difficulty adjusting. To remedy this, start by doing most of your outdoor activities during daylight hours. Get at least 30 minutes to an hour of direct sunlight daily. If you are unable to get outdoors, keep your curtains open and put your favorite chair near the window and enjoy the natural light. Also, you can purchase light boxes that provide increase light in the home up to 100 times that of regular light bulbs. In addition, there are lamps, electric machines, and smartphone apps to give access to light therapy. And if this does not work, take a winter vacation in a warm sunny climate. Enjoy and create many good memories to bring back home.

2. Maintain a regular exercise routine

Exercising consistently helps the body produce endorphins which are hormones that make you happy. Taylor Swift’s song says it best, “Shake it off.” Not only does dancing improves your heart health, overall muscle strength, balance, and coordination, but it also reduces depression and anxiety. Dancing also allows us to become more connected and social. Social interactions can go a long way in improving mood and mental health. We can still have these interactions even with social distancing. There are many online dance parties through social media, or you can establish a group with your family and friends via zoom or another platform. Dancing can be one tool you use to improve your mood and shake off the blues. However, please do not substitute it for professional guidance.

3. Make a playlist

Download your favorite upbeat and inspirational songs to boost your energy and mood. Music can change emotions immediately. It can transform the brain chemistry so we can positively process our feelings. Music and emotions are stimulated by the same neural pathway that can potentially reduce anxiety and depression. Also, it can increase self-esteem, and quality of life.

4. Aromatherapy

Essential oils are often used as mood boosters because the flowers and natural products contain elements that trigger the part of your brain that contains the receptors for mood, memory, and good vibes. There are many ways you can add aromatherapy. You can use it in the home in humidifiers, diffusers, baths, air fresheners, and lotions.

5. Talk therapy

Talk therapy offers a great solution as well. Many people forgo this therapy due to reasons such as working, not enough time, or old cultural stigmas attached to seeing a therapist. But now with the use of technology, we can talk to a therapist 24/7. These therapists can provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is very effective in managing S.A.D.

6. Vitamin D and eating healthy

Vitamin D is known as the sun vitamin. It is important for our immune system and it helps to regulate our mood. Many of us have a deficiency due to lack of absorption from the sun or not enough intake through our diet. It is important to have your Vitamin D level check and if a supplement is needed it can either be prescribed by your healthcare provider or purchase over the counter wherever vitamins are sold.

7. Do things you enjoy

It is also helpful to continue to do the things you enjoy. This helps release the endorphins that trigger us to be happy. It has always been said that laughter is the best medicine and I tend to agree. A simple smile can change your mood instantly. I know it is hard right now to see the smiles of others, but find a way to make someone and yourself laugh frequently. You can tell jokes, watch funny videos on the internet, or watch a comedy movie. Just remember, don’t worry be happy.

8. Establish good sleep habits

A good sleep pattern is very important so try to get at least 8 hours of restful sleep every night. Sleep helps the mind to rest. Also, it enables the body to refresh for the next day. Turn off all electronics and anything that can be a distraction, so you can concentrate on your sweet dreams.

9. Hydration