Winter depression or seasonal affective disorder is a mental health condition that causes people to have a depressed mood during the winter months. The exact causes of winter depression are still unknown but the reduced level of sunlight during winter is believed to play a role in the onset and severity of winter depression. While there is nothing you can do to increase the amount of winter sunlight, there are some things that you can do to help eliminate or reduce the impact that winter depression has on your life.
As the lower amount of sunlight during the winter months is believed to be a trigger of winter depression, a person who is depressed during the winter months should use a form of light replacement to reduce the impact of winter depression. Specially designed light boxes and bulbs are available to provide “full spectrum” light that mimics the light provided by the sun.
Though many people socialize over the holidays, many other people are isolated from friends and family for a number of reasons. This isolation can further cause an increase in feelings of depression. Staying in contact with others is important to reduce the effects of depression. Participating in religious or social groups, volunteering with community organizations or visiting neighbors are all possible ways to find social engagement.
Exercise is important for maintaining mental health regardless of the season. Studies have shown that in some cases exercise is as effective for treating depression as prescription anti-depressants. While you may not feel like actively exercising, just getting outside each day will allow you to get some exercise and will provide exposure to the limited amount of sunlight that is available. Set a goal to increase the amount of time that you spend outside each day and likewise increase your amount of activity. Set realistic goals that can be achieved.
Winter coincides with the holiday season. For many, the holiday season means overeating, especially eating foods that are high in calories and fat. Though you certainly can enjoy some ham, pie and cookies, remember to keep things in moderation and take steps to keep your overall diet low in calories and fat and well balanced. A well balanced diet provides the brain with the needed nutrients to function properly which can help to reduce depressed feelings. Winter weight gain is another problem that often goes hand in hand with winter depression. Often a person who is depressed will gain weight which further increases their depressed feelings. Eating a balanced diet can help a person avoid winter weight gain.
If the feelings of depression are long lasting, disruptive to your everyday life or if you have thoughts of suicide, seek immediate medical attention.