Avoiding Depression Through The Winter
Growing up in Barcelona where there is sunshine and a moderate climate all year-round moving to Minnesota the winter of 1996-97 was a shock to say the least. During that first winter I remember asking the locals. Does the snow ever melt? It may have seemed to be a silly question for those who grew up in this type of environment but it wasn’t. I really had my concerns. I vividly remember one day when I realized that it wasn’t just about the cold and snow but also about the lack of sun light.
The short days of winter are long on gloom and short on daylight in much of North America. And that’s a prescription for seasonal depression for some people. Formerly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), winter-onset depression is related to light--or rather, the lack of it--in winter. Many people feel a little blue when cold, gray weather curtails opportunities to get outdoors and be active. But some people actually experience clinical depression at this time of year. If that sounds familiar, the best solution may be to bring some light back into your life. If an extended trip to the Caribbean is out of the question, you may want to invest in a broad-spectrum lamp.
These devices provide strong artificial light that simulates daylight, especially the more energetic blue wavelengths of light. Regular exposure may help chase away the symptoms of SAD. It’s important to expose yourself to this kind of light first thing in the morning, for at least a half hour. And to avoid triggering insomnia at night, avoid prolonged exposure to bright, bluish light in the evening.
Bluish light works with the pineal gland and brain to help regulate the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. Studies show that exposure to this type of light in the winter can be an effective remedy for depression associated with too many gray days and too little sunshine. It may also be helpful to consider taking supplemental vitamin D3 at this time of year, in case your body’s stores are running low. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that the body makes through the action of sunlight striking bare skin. But the sun’s rays are too weak in the winter in much of North America for this to occur. Fortified dairy contains some vitamin D, as do certain types of healthful fish, such as salmon, but some people may not consume enough of these foods to maintain adequate vitamin D levels throughout the winter. Vitamin D3 supplements are widely available. Take 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily.