If the hectic pace of life and the turmoil in the world today were not enough, now we have to add the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, or the winter blues to our lives. Not everyone experiences SAD but there are enough of us that it warrants some attention.
Psychology Today estimates that approximately 10 million Americans experience SAD with another 10% -20% showing mild forms. In the UK, 1 in 20 people have been diagnosed with SAD with men being twice as likely to show symptoms while in Spain, it is estimated that 2.4% of the population experiences SAD.
There is no definitive reason for SAD. There are several theories, and most of them agree on it having to do with the circadian clock and an individual’s struggle to synchronize their internal circadian clocks with the outside world.
This is known as the phase shift hypothesis. This is when our circadian rhythms fall out of sync and affect the release of melatonin. The shift in melatonin directly affects a region of the brain called the hypothalamus which in turns alters a hormone known as the - active thyroid hormone - which regulates a variety of behaviors and the processes of the body.
While science hasn´t been able to nail down the reasons why, it has been able to determine what activities help in decreasing the affects of SAD.
Here are some things that you can do to counteract the affects of the winter blues.
1. Let the sun in: Exposure to sunlight makes a big difference. Set an intention to spend time outdoors. Add watching the sunrise to your morning routine. You can also try grounding.
2. Increase Vitamin D: less sunlight leads to a deficiency of Vitamin D. Add Vitmain D supplements but make sure you consult your physician first.
3. Add color to your life: visual stimulation can be a mood enhancer.
4. Exercise: movement releases endorphins and all the feel good hormones in the body.
5. Create a cozy living space: the Danish word for this is hygge (you can look up the pronunciation). The Norwegians call it koselig. It refers to creating a warm and inviting atmosphere at home and work. It´s all about comfort and surrounding yourself with items that bring you joy.
6. Human connection: All things hygge are best enjoyed in the company of friends and family. Enjoying meaningful connection offsets the feeling of isolation, loneliness, and depression often experienced with SAD.
7. Adaptability and reframing: When you cultivate a positive attitude towards the shift in season, it becomes an opportunity to slow down and get cozy. You “get to” slow down and savor the present, find joy in the ordinary and embrace the warmth and contentment that the season offers.
Start by adding any one of the ideas mentioned above. It may feel like work at first, but the benefits will soon be worth the effort.
Here´s to discovering a happier healthier you!!