What Causes Winter Depression
Every year around the time when the leaves start to fall from the trees, you may find that you’re feeling more lethargic and down overall. You can’t quite pinpoint a reason or event that causes this feeling, but you know you’re not feeling like yourself. What’s worse, is that this feeling seems to last for months.
If this sounds like you, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, also known as the “winter blues,” is a type of depression that only comes around certain times of the year – usually late fall through winter. It’s different from major depression because it comes and goes with the seasons.
While we don’t know exactly what causes SAD, the lack of sunshine during the cold winter months can be a factor. Scientists believe that certain hormones made deep in our brains trigger attitude-related changes at certain times of the year, like fall or winter. The decreased sunlight causes a reduction in the amount of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in our bodies, and melatonin, a chemical that regulates your sleep and mood.
The most common symptoms of SAD include:
- Craving carbohydrates
- Excessive sleepiness during the day (hypersomnia)
- Low energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
How to Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you think you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and an appropriate treatment plan. He or she may suggest medication, light therapy, psychotherapy, or Vitamin D supplements.
Here are some tips to incorporate into your lifestyle to deal with SAD symptoms when the nights get longer:Spend time outside each day.
Staying cooped up inside all winter can contribute to SAD symptoms. Try to spend time outside every day – even if it’s chilly. Bundle up in warm clothes, make yourself a thermos of hot coffee, and go for a brisk walk. It’s good for the body, mind and spirit to get fresh air and feel the sunshine on your skin. Stay physically active.
We know, you hear this tip all the time. But staying physically active as you age is good for you in so many ways – this simple tip can even help prevent seasonal affective disorder. Set a goal to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Use a light therapy box at the beginning of the fall season.
Before your SAD symptoms appear, start using a light box to reduce the severity of your symptoms. Also known as phototherapy boxes, light boxes mimic outdoor light, which causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Learn more about what to look for in a light therapy box.Eat a well-balanced diet.
If your body doesn’t get the vitamins and nutrients it needs, you may feel more sluggish and fatigued. One way to prevent that is to eat a well-balanced diet comprised of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. Create social situations.
Social activity is a great way to avoid seasonal affective disorder. Not only do positive and uplifting interactions with others release feel-good chemicals in the brain, they also take your mind off the SAD symptoms you may be experiencing. Experts actually believe that laughter stimulates processes in your brain that counter depression symptoms – so be sure to include lots of merriment with family and friends! Isolation increases the risk of depression; take time to socialize regularly to avoid this risk.
These cold, darker days of winter certainly have us all longing for the sunny, warmer temps of spring. It’s important, however, not to brush off these signs of seasonal affective disorder as an inevitable side effect of winter. No matter how you choose to avoid SAD – whether it’s through a healthier diet, exercise, fun times with friends or a light box – taking action when symptoms occur could be the difference between lonesome, hard days and a happy winter season.
Discover Life at Silver Maples
At Silver Maples, we feel strongly that social connections and engagement have a major impact on your overall health and wellness and quality of life. We’re committed to create and support a positive aging experience that is personalized to the desires and needs of those that call Silver Maples home. If you’re interested in learning more about our vibrant senior living community near Ann Arbor, we invite you to come see for yourself, and check out the various senior living options we offer.
If you’re still in the research phase and aren’t quite ready to visit, we encourage you to get to know us from afar by visiting our website. There you can view our videos and read personal stories and testimonials shared by residents, their families and our staff. You can even request more information to receive our brochure packet. Or, feel free to connect with us through social media to get a peek at daily life at Silver Maples.
Contact us when you’re ready to learn more. We’re eager to discuss options and help you enjoy a lifestyle and support system you and your family will love.