If you feel your mood changing to blue and sad during what should be a happy holiday season, you might have a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Most people who have SAD begin to feel tired and moody in the fall, and it continues or worsens into the winter months. This depressive time for many people is known as the “winter blues.” North Texas Psychiatrist Dr. Patrick Rabjohn says, “Sometimes it can feel as though the winter blues is just a myth, but there’s scientific evidence to support how seasons can affect our moods. The good news is there are ways to combat the symptoms of this disorder.”
- Lack of energy
- Cravings for sugary, starchy foods
- Weight gain
- Feeling of weakness or heaviness in the muscles
Causes for the Winter Blues
The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is unknown. Research has shown several scientific reasons for winter depression, most related to the way our bodies respond to sunlight and the winter season’s lack of daylight.
The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin and serotonin, both, which play a role in sleep patterns and mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for stabilizing mood.
When there is a deficit of serotonin, it can trigger depressive feelings. Reduced sunlight during the cold season may cause a drop in serotonin prompting the winter blues. Melatonin may increase from the lack of sunlight triggering lethargy and symptoms of depression.
Battle the Winter Blues
Increasing the amount of light in your life will help zap the blues. Open your blinds or curtains during the day and sit next to the window to let your body enjoy an extra bit of sunshine. Data has also shown a benefit to certain light boxes, especially in combination with antidepressant medication treatment. Be sure to talk to your physician about which light box is recommended as there are a variety available over-the-counter.
Studies have shown that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Better yet, exercise near a window or walk under a bright light, listen to some music, and think of positive thoughts to help improve your mood.
- Healthy Eating
There are certain foods that can help enhance moods and relieve anxiety such as dark chocolate or a glass of red wine. However, giving into the cravings of candy and high-carbohydrate foods such as bread and desserts can leave you feeling happy momentarily, but ultimately will increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, veggies, and fruit into your diet, and drink 8 cups of water a day. These healthy foods provide you with nutrients that will help stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels.
- Medication Evaluation
Scheduling an appointment or evaluation with a psychiatrist is also recommended. A change to your medication regimen or augmenting your current medications is another excellent way to address the target symptoms of a seasonal depression.
Dr. Patrick Rabjohn is a Dallas Fort Worth and Mansfield, Texas Psychiatrist. Dr. Rabjohn is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology and Medical Director of Rabjohn Behavioral Institute treating psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety disorders, adult ADD and more. Dr. Rabjohn has been named Top10MD for two years an honor only 1 in 3 Doctors in the United States succeed with this recognition in the United States. To schedule an appointment contact Dr. Rabjohn at 817-539-2282.