Well, your new cranky, lethargic demeanor is likely an effect of the change of the seasons. While, for most, the transition into spring welcomes feelings of excitement and renewal, the shifting to the winter months means just the opposite. Experts believe that these symptoms of depression are likely caused by a lack of sunlight. Depending on your latitude, you can soak up the sun for 16 or more hours each day. However, enduring the colder months gets you significantly fewer hours of sunlight each day.
Studies indicate that about 9 out of every 10 people suffer from dwindling energy levels and negative dispositions during the winter months. Furthermore, about 11 million Americans are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means they can experience full-on depression symptoms that result from decreased sun exposure.
You might be experiencing symptoms of sunlight deficiency if you are:
- Constantly languid and unmotivated
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Packing on the pounds
- Filling your plate with starchy and carbohydrate-rich foods
- Opting for a solo night on the couch over rather than a night on the town with friends
Experts believe that these indicators are, in part, caused chemical reactions in your brain that are triggered by the levels of sunlight. When your optic nerve senses sunlight, your body secretes serotonin — a mood boosting neurotransmitter. At the same time, the production of melatonin, a hormone that lowers body temperature and prompts drowsiness, increases. Simply put, when you're not exposed to enough sunlight, you're likely to feel drained more often.
To keep both your energy and spirits high, try these tips for balancing the effects of sunlight deficiency:
- Pop some Vitamin D Supplements: While the summer sun provides adequate levels of Vitamin D, supplements might be helpful when sunlight is scarce.
- Keep a light box at your desk: for many who experience the depressive symptoms of the dark months, the Mayo Clinic states that Light Therapy, which mimics the sun's rays, helps their blues.
- Keep moving: Exercise will not only boost your mood, but if done outside, can help you get more rays while the sun is up.
- Drop the bag of chips: While the oncoming season might re-ignite your love of high fat, high carb snacks, resist the urge to crunch on unhealthy snacks. Instead, opt for Vitamin D rich foods such as milk, eggs, salmon, cod, and (yum) sardines.
- Regular sleep cycles: Don't snooze your alarm and pull the covers over your eyes just yet. Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day balances your circadian rhythms so you feel more rested. Get out and enjoy as much sunlight as possible.
As we try to force smiles and combat the effects of the winter blues, just remember that the spring is inevitable. Until then, sunbathe near a window in your living room while blasting "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles and let the countdown begin: Only 177 days to go until spring.
Labels: staying alert and focused