‘Tis the Season to be SAD!

December 5, 2013 in Community Issues, Families & Children, Health & Fitness, Latest Articles, News, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Women

Christmas is a time of year many people associate with plump turkeys, presents overflowing beneath a bauble-studded Christmas tree and children/domesticated animals gambolling around a quaint family home. Other people may think of it as a time where we consume a bit too much sherry, definitely too much rich food and suffer the familiar family dispute (or two).

However, this time of year people are also prone to suffering SAD. This acronym refers to Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a hotly disputed topic but one which, if you suffer from it, is all too real. According to NHS Choices, it is defined as ‘a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. The episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time each year, usually during the winter.’ The symptoms of SAD are:

  • Low mood
  • Lack of interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Being less active than normal
  • Sleeping more

This ‘winter depression’ usually begins to rear its head just as the days are getting shorter – when the sky is dark as you leave school or work – and intensifies to a peak during December, January and February. Severity can range from mild to severe. All symptoms tend to lift as spring blooms.

There are several reasons why people might suffer from SAD but the most typical ones, psychologists and scientists surmise, is lack of exposure to sunlight and the effect on hormonal activity. Absorption of sunlight is a core process in the manufacture of the hormone, serotonin, which the body uses to stabilise mood. Sunlight also affects the production of melatonin, which tells your body to feel sleepy, as well as the body’s circadian rhythm, which is responsible for regulating biological processes like sleep.

All in all, SAD is thought to be a type of depression that is often easily treatable using particular methods –numerous studies have shown that light therapy (using a lightbox that mimics the light of the sun) have been successful in alleviating SAD. These are professional treatments and it is always best to speak to a doctor if you think you might need help.

If you only feel mildly blue, you can also boost your mood by doing fun things associated with winter, like toasting marshmallows, going ice-skating or cuddling up with a good book by the fire.

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost mood. We here at FunMeFit never tire of extolling the virtues of exercise, even though it might seem like the last thing you want to do in the depths of winter. Here are five exercise tips to help you stay positive as Christmas’s fun and demands descend upon us:

  • Go for a brisk walk with a friend or family member in the crisp winter air: you will see vibrant colours and dazzling skies that only appear at this time of year;
  • It may seem absurd, but going for a run in the cold (make sure you go during daylight and the ground isn’t too slippery!) is invigorating;
  • Invest in a yoga mat and do some indoor yoga – there are plenty of good videos online and this stress-relieving activity is completely free;
  • Go tobogganing with your friends or family in the snow – if past years are anything to judge by, it may well be a white Christmas! And,
  • If you have any old sports equipment or games that you no longer use, take them to a charity shop so someone else can use it. Clearing out the clutter is always a mood-lifter and so is helping others!

It’s important to visit your GP if you suspect you might be suffering from SAD to get a clear diagnosis from a health professional. Even if you feel perfectly chipper throughout these shorter, colder days, exercise is still an integral feature for a fun, active lifestyle. Try one of the tips this weekend and you could feel even better. Happy holidays, everyone!

By Catherine Heath

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