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Sunny In the News

At This Time of the Year, Maybe You Feel S.A.D.

Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts 4-6 percent of the United States population.

By Vicky Thompson
As previously printed in Washington Life Magazine on January 2014.

Did you ever wish you were a bear? You could just crawl into your den for a long winter hibernation, only to emerge when the blissful days of spring had returned. If so, you may be one of the 4–6 percent of the United States population who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

S.A.D. is a type of depression which begins in the fall as the days begin to grow shorter and the temperature begins to drop. It will begin to subside as the days grow longer and warmer in the spring. This type of depression is more common in women between the ages of 20 and 40. However, men, children and the elderly may still be affected.

Generally, you would feel tired or go through “crying spells.” One may have trouble concentrating or have body aches every day. You could experience a loss of libido or a loss of sleep. Many people tend to overeat at this time, especially carbohydrates, resulting in weight gain.

How does this happen? Simply put, we just don’t get enough sun living this far from the equator. Most research is focused on the way light triggers messages to the hypothalamus gland. This is the gland that regulates mood, sleep and appetite.

Do not despair, as there are some things you can do to increase your serotonin levels. Many people use light boxes for phototherapy. These lights are put somewhere in your home or office. Massage therapy can also be very helpful.

Many foods can increase your serotonin levels, such as: apricots, apples, pears, grapes, plums, grapefruit, oranges, avocado, dates, bananas, eggplant, papaya, passion fruit, pineapples and tomatoes.

The amino acid L-tryptophan can also increase serotonin levels. Numerous people also find omega-3 fatty acids, Bcomplex vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium helpful.

Need more tips to make it through? Go out in the winter sun every day. Plan activities with friends and relatives; incorporate more laughter in your life. Practice deep breathing, yoga and meditation.

Above all else, think positive. Soon, the crocuses and daffodils will be emerging from their winter hibernation. Then, we will all know those sunnier, brighter days of spring will be here soon.