Moving Beyond SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

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Living in a northern climate during the winter months with loss of natural sunlight can have an impact on mood and our overall sense of well-being. While most of us would not meet the clinical criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), few of us are unaffected by the lack of sunlight. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, anywhere from 25-35% of Canadians experience the “winter blues”, a milder form of SAD.

The winter blues can leave you feeling tired, low energy, sleeping more than usual, lacking in motivation, less active, and more likely to gain a few pounds.

What you can do to reduce the impact of the winter blues:

  • Get some light.

Increase your exposure to natural sunlight by spending time outdoors when it is sunny, especially during the noon hour. Use a light therapy lamp. Spend 30 minutes in front of a lamp designed for therapeutic use, first thing in the morning.

  • Get some exercise.

Find an outdoor winter activity that you like to do during the daylight hours and you get two birds with one stone: light and exercise. Exercise is well-documented as one of the best options for improving mood.

  • Get some quality brain food.

When you eat, you feed your brain. Think of your brain as an expensive car and gas as nutrition. Put the most nutritional fuel into your body so that your brain can run at its best: fruit, veggies, protein, high quality fats and carbohydrates.

  • Get some non-alcoholic drinks.

It is tempting at times to try to improve your mood with alcohol. Instead, look for non-alcoholic drinks, hot and cold, to sip on.

While most of us, armed with information and awareness can manage our winter blues, if you have concerns that your winter blues are developing into something more serious please consult with your doctor.

Resources:

Canadian Mental Health Association

Mood Disorders Canada

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