Lack of Sunlight, Shorter Days Leads to Winter Blues

Alappatt HSDAYTON, Ohio (January 18, 2018) – The winter months have a way of playing tricks on our emotions as less hours of daylight make it feel as if mealtime is actually more like bedtime.

Colder temperatures, lack of sunlight and an increase in seasonal illnesses can take a toll on even the most upbeat personality. Perhaps that’s why many of us struggle to fight the dreaded winter blues – a feeling of sadness that can often have an impact on how we feel physically.

“Winter blues is known by many different names including seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression,” said Anessa Alappatt, MD, a family physician with Fairborn Medical Center. “As winter comes, people become tired, more irritable; they crave carbs, and are less motivated.”

The grey skies and darker days have an influence on millions of Americans. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to six percent of Americans suffer from seasonal depression every year with another 10 percent experiencing a mild form of SAD. 

Experiencing the winter woes isn’t anything to be concerned about, but it can have a temporary impact on a person’s physical and emotional health.

“The extra craving of carbs compounded with a lack of motivation to get outside and exercise can lead to weight gain,” said Dr. Alappatt, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Likewise, relationships and work productivity may suffer from a decreased desire to leave the home or engage in extra activities.”

Fighting the Blues

Dr. Alappatt said a person doesn’t have to let the season come out on top. She’s suggests taking the following steps to lessen your risk of the winter blues:

Prepare for battle – We pull out the winter coat, hat and gloves when we see winter months approaching. Make the same type of preparations for your mental health. Understand that you’ll likely feel a shift in your emotional state and prepare a loose action plan to help combat it.

Replace the sun – Our bodies crave sunlight and its light and warmth have a significant impact on the way we feel. Consider using light therapy, which can mimic the effects of sunlight.

Don’t discount daylight – The skies may be grey and the sun may be in hibernation, but daylight can still help lift our mood. Get outside when it is light as much as possible. Bundle up and take a walk during your lunch break. Get the family out of the house for a quick stroll after dinner.

Plan time with friends and family – Winter months are made for hibernating, but closing yourself into your home isn’t going to help you in the long-run. Make the effort to schedule time with friends and family so that you are forced to come out of your comfort zone and socialize. 

Keep the long-view in mind – Understand that this too will pass. The winter blues or even milder forms of SAD are here for a season. Recognizing it will come to an end can usually be all someone needs to know. Consider planning a spring or summer vacation.  Sometimes, making plans for a break can be as effective as the vacation itself.

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