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Battling The Wintertime Blues: Four Ways to Lighten Your Mood on Darker Days
By Terri Dougherty

As the days get darker, and carb-filled treats look better than ever, you can place some blame on the season.

Winter can be tough on our mood, as its darker days can throw off our bodyís rhythms. As sunlight decreases, we might have difficulty regulating hormones like serotonin that balance our mood, and may produce too much melatonin, which causes sleepiness.

This combination can make us feel sluggish and melancholy, and may also lead to a tendency to overeat, especially carbohydrates.

While itís not uncommon to feel sad or down for a short period of time, sometimes a mood change is more serious. In winter, the lack of sunlight may trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

To help regulate your bodyís rhythms when days are short on sunlight, Lina Begdache, an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University in New York, suggests taking steps that help bring your bodyís rhythms back into balance. ďIt is possible to readjust the circadian rhythm to better align with the new light and dark schedule,Ē she said in a news release from the university.

To boost your mood:
  1. Get exposure to daylight as soon as possible after waking up. Begdache suggests trying to get an hour of natural light early in the morning, as the bodyís clock is most sensitive to light about an hour after your wake up. If you canít get exposure to natural light, a light therapy box that replicates natural light might be effective.
  2. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try to be consistent with bedtime and wake time, even on the weekend. Avoid stimulants, such as coffee or caffeinated tea, close to bedtime. Donít eat a heavy meal right before going to bed. Destress with a relaxing bedtime routine.
  3. Stay active. Exercise during the day to boost hormones that regulate mood.
  4. Eat right. Choose complex carbs and healthy proteins to give your body a steady supply of serotonin and melatonin.
If symptoms donít let up, and you have concerns about SAD, talk to a health care provider or mental health professional, or contact your companyís employee assistance program to help you cope.

SAD symptoms
What indicates that you have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD? Symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, and the National Institutes of Health note that they can include:
  • Oversleeping
  • Overeating; craving carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like hibernating)
  • Feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having low energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you have questions about SAD, get in touch with your health care provider or a mental health professional.
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