By Evan Vitale
For many, the end of the holiday season and the what-seems-like-forever cold; gray; dreary days of winter, it’s hard to beat the “blues.”
Some call it the “winter blues” but others can suffer from what’s known as “seasonal affective disorder” or “SAD.”
The winter blues is most common in the Midwest, Northwest and Northeast and nearly 25 million Americans suffer seasonal blues every year.
During this time, you might find yourself:
- Craving sweets
- Eating more than normal
- Feeling cooped up
- Sad or down
- Feeling “stir-crazy”
- Sleeping more than normal
- Uninterested in sex
- Having trouble concentrating
The winter blues and “SAD” are two different things. Don’t get them confused with each other. People suffering from SAD feel depressed and fatigued to the point that their relationship and work life begin to suffer.
In other case, one of the best ways to get over the winter blues (or SAD) is by getting more sunlight. While they can be a problem in areas where it’s cloudy day after day, you can purchase and use a light box with a full-spectrum light.
It is because sunlight affects the melatonin-serotonin system that it works so well to alleviate the symptoms of the winter blues and elevates mood. In fact, studies have even found that light therapy or phototherapy, which is the practice of using full-spectrum light therapeutically, works to relieve the symptoms of the winter blues and SAD better than antidepressant drugs.
Interestingly, vitamin D, which requires sun exposure to be produced in your body, is also linked to higher levels of serotonin, and it has been suggested that getting plenty of sunlight over the summer helps your body to maintain higher vitamin D levels in the winter, and therefore higher levels of serotonin as well.
So in the wintertime, if you can take a trip to a sunny location and spend some time in the sun, your mood is likely to improve immediately (this means sensible sun exposure — staying in the sun until you are burned is NOT healthy).
For those of you who cannot get away, though, there is another option that is widely accepted as the best treatment for SAD and the winter blues: Full-spectrum lighting. Natural sunlight is full spectrum, and the full-spectrum light box I recommend replicates the same healthy “ingredients” in natural sunlight. This includes the full spectrum of color (imagine the colors of the rainbow), as well as infrared and the three ultraviolet wavelengths. No other type of lighting source — not “regular” or even “natural” light bulbs or fluorescent light bulbs — contains these requirements.