Some seasons may bring about mood swings in people who are susceptible to depression. The cold seasons of autumn and winter usually usher in a condition called seasonal affective disorder or winter depression.
Winter depression seems to affect women more than men, and is often seen in young adult females. While it is not clear what causes winter depression, the condition is apparently hereditary and linked to inadequate exposure to sunlight.
Signs and symptoms
Winter depression can be dangerous in extreme cases. A person who is overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, emptiness, and sadness may be driven to commit suicide. Recognizing its symptoms at an early stage is therefore important. A person may be going through winter depression when he or she:
- sleeps more than usual
- gets irritable often
- has low energy levels
- complains of heaviness in the arms and legs
- consumes more sugary and starchy foods, as well as alcohol
- gains weight
- and generally fails to get along well with people
What you can do about winter depression
You can prevent or overcome winter depression in a number of ways.
- If indoors, stay in a well-lighted room during the day. Although catching natural sunlight is best, artificial light may also be useful when outdoor conditions prevent you from leaving home. Let sunlight into your room by raising blinds or curtains.
- Use light colours to uplift your mood. Studies on colour therapy may not yet offer conclusive evidence on the positive effect that certain colours have for the treatment of depression. There are indications, however, that the colours associated with happy summer months like pastel shades of blue and green may trigger feelings of lightness in the beholder. Simple measures like changing the colour of your bed linen or of your bedroom, and wearing light-coloured clothes may help alter your mood.
- Spend more time outdoors. If not getting enough sunlight seems to cause winter depression, then it may help to get out into some sunlight while using a sunscreen with adequate UV protection. Take leisurely walks during the day as often as is possible preferably between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In winter, midday is the best time to be outdoors because it is when the sun's light is at its strongest.
- Watch what you eat. A healthy and balanced diet can keep depression away. People who suffer from winter depression normally lose their appetite, effectively depriving them of much needed nutrients to nourish the brain. Deficiencies in the B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids, and other minerals like magnesium, selenium and zinc seem to be common in depressed individuals. Consume more dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, cold water fishes and nuts to get all the mood lifting nutrients the natural way, or take a multivitamin supplement if a weak appetite prevents you from getting them from food.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can release feel-good brain chemicals called serotonin in your brain. Physical activities you can do to overcome depression include brisk walking, running, cycling and aerobic activity.
A consultation with your natural therapist will deliver more suggestions on how to avoid winter depression.
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