What is winter depression and how to deal with it

Let’s remember our usual state of health and mood with the onset of winter: cool weather, the first snowfalls, the approaching holidays – everything is perceived with enthusiasm. Running on crisp snow, frost stings the skin, the fresh air fills with freshness – as if we were back in childhood!

And then the picture changes dramatically: fatigue, drowsiness, depressed mood, apathy appear, the dullness outside the window begins to annoy, the cold wind infuriates, unremoved snow also infuriates. More and more, I want to stay warm at home, drink tea with cake and continue like this until spring comes.

What is winter depression and how to deal with it

A familiar picture? You are not alone, it is not a bad character and not a banal laziness. This condition is called “seasonal affective disorder” or, for short, winter depression.

What it is?

seasonal affective disorder (Seasonal Affective Disorder, abbreviated as SAD) is a bodily disorder that is directly linked to a decrease in the amount of sunlight in winter. Seasonal disorders are more common in people living far from the equator, where daylight hours are shorter in winter.

The depressive state occurs every year at the same time – usually begins in late autumn, intensifies in winter and ends in spring.

Some people experience SAD even in the summer, although this is much less common.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes winter depression. But there are several interesting hypotheses about the origin of SAD.

For example, that it is an evolutionary relic, similar to many animals in which activity is significantly reduced in winter (a vivid example is the hibernation of bears).

Lack of sunlight has a direct effect on circadian rhythms, they are also “biological clocks”. The circadian rhythm system is sensitive to sunrise and sunset and tries to synchronize with it.

In the dark, the pineal gland produces a substance called melatonin, which is responsible for the drowsiness we feel every day after dusk. Light entering the eyes at dawn stops the production of melatonin.

During short winter days, when people get up before dawn or continue to work after sunset, jet lag is disrupted, causing symptoms of SAD.

Another theory suggests that a decrease in sunlight causes decreased serotonin levels – a neurotransmitter often called the “happiness hormone”.

And another theory points to winter depression as the main culprit Vitamin D: Because sunlight helps us produce this vitamin, reduced sun exposure during the winter can lead to vitamin deficiencies.

Vitamin D helps keep bones healthy and strong, improves calcium absorption and improves immune function. And that’s not all: researchers believe that vitamin D is important for healthy brain function, and insufficient levels of vitamin D may play an important role in the formation of depression and other mental illnesses.

What are the symptoms of winter depression?

  • frequent causeless sadness and depression;
  • increased drowsiness, despite increasing the number of hours of sleep;
  • fatigue and decreased concentration;
  • loss of interest and pleasure in activities you usually enjoy, feeling like nothing is pleasing to you;
  • changes in appetite and food preferences: desire to eat more, with an emphasis on fast carbohydrates, cravings for sweets may increase. And as a result – weight gain;
  • mood swings, anxiety, social isolation.

How to help yourself?

Of course you can just clenched teeth wait for spring, but there are ways to ease your suffering. Here they are.

We keep on running

Yes, runners are happy people! Physical activity reduces the risk of depression by 19% – why not keep jogging in winter?

It is optimal to go for a run just after sunrise to get a greater dose of light. The daylight and fresh air at this time of day will lift your spirits, help you replenish your supply of vitamin D and those same endorphins. And you’ll just feel like you’re coping with the winter blues much better.

Some experts believe running has the greatest effect on mood when paired with social interaction. A great excuse to find a training partner or join a nearby running club.

It may very well be that under the influence of a depressed mood, you do not really want to go for a run in the cold. Try to motivate yourself. While others go into hibernation, you build a running base and improve your form. And when, with the onset of spring, most lovers will look like typical “snowdrops”, you will be ahead of everyone else in your progress. And there the heat will come and the mood will improve.

Make the most of daylight

If your home or office doesn’t have a lot of natural light, try opening your blinds and curtains fully, clearing clutter from your windowsills, and sitting closer to the window – even that feeling apparently mundane can make you feel better. .

Do not close your house for many hours watching TV shows, this is inefficient. It is best to dress warmly and go for a walk in the nearest forest or park. Late fall and winter also have sunny days – don’t miss them.

What is winter depression and how to deal with it

An excellent example of the fact that life does not end with the onset of cold weather is Finland and Norway, whose inhabitants, despite the long winter (six months in the Arctic), are very fond of long family walks and other activities. And children from a very young age are left to sleep on the streets during the day. Perhaps that is why the inhabitants of these countries regularly achieve high positions in various ratings of the “happiest”.

We increase serotonin production

In addition to mood, serotonin helps regulate appetite and affects bone density, blood clotting, and sleep quality. The body naturally produces serotonin, but there are several ways to increase its production.

You cannot get serotonin directly from food, but tryptophan, the amino acid that metabolizes serotonin, can be obtained this way. Tryptophan is found primarily in protein-rich foods, including turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, and legumes.

This is also where physical activity comes in: according to Harvard Health, even if you start doing simple exercises for 15 to 20 minutes a day, it will affect your mood.

Massage can help increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, another neurotransmitter associated with mood, and reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the body in response to stress.

Some research suggests that being in a good mood also helps increase serotonin levels. Researchers have studied the interaction between mood and memory. People with sad memories produced less serotonin. Think about what makes you happy, visualize your positive memories and pleasant experiences as often as possible.

Make up for a vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D (calciferol) is the common name for a group of fat-soluble vitamins D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6. Of these, two are beneficial to human health: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).

Ergocalciferol enters the body from the outside – together with food, cholecalciferol is synthesized by the body itself under the influence of ultraviolet radiation.

Therefore, in addition to being outside during the day, eat foods containing vitamin D: cod liver, fish (pink salmon, salmon, mackerel, salmon, herring, trout), egg yolks, goat’s milk , hard cheese.

The norm for an ordinary person is 600-800 IU / day, for an athlete – from 1000

If you constantly feel weak and lethargic during the winter, talk to your doctor about adding vitamin D supplements to your diet.

We use light therapy

Light therapy using a bright white light device is now considered the best form of treatment for SAD. The starting “dose” for light therapy using a fluorescent light box is 10,000 lux for 30 minutes daily. Alternatively, light boxes emitting 2500 lux require two hours of exposure per day.

The session should be started early in the morning, after waking up, in order to achieve the maximum effect of the treatment. Research shows that even an hour of light therapy can quickly improve symptoms of depression in people with SAD.

We follow the diet

We are what we eat. It has already been proven that food affects our mood in different ways, and a good diet can help in depressive states.

Make sure your diet includes “brain foods” high in healthy fats: salmon (or other fatty fish), nuts, and avocados. Fruits and vegetables, lean meat are also useful.

But alcohol and fast carbohydrates – cakes, cookies, snickers and other things are best minimized. There’s no crime in a glass of wine once a week, but if you constantly “wash away” a bad mood, the symptoms will only get worse.

We follow the daily routine

Lack of sleep is harmful to the body, and with seasonal depression, it will only make symptoms worse. Get enough sleep, try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. By the way, the idea of ​​sleeping through the weekend is also ineffective – oversleeping does not eliminate SAD symptoms.

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