Experts say less sunlight, colder days, longer nights and less time spent outdoors can all affect your mental health.
During the final months of the year and especially as we enter fall and begin to think about winter, many Americans may experience mood swings, which are common.
Health experts have revealed why this happens, how we can handle changes in our psychological, emotional and physiological health, and ways to improve symptoms and mood. status.
What is winter sadness?
Winter blues, commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), refers to a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months, when exposure to natural sunlight is reduced, Ryan Sultan, MD, a psychiatry researcher and instructor at Columbia University in New York City, told Fox News Digital.
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“It is a recognized mental health condition characterized by changes in mood and behavior that follow seasonal patterns,” he said.
While many people experience milder mood swings during the winter, SAD is a more severe and clinically significant form of the condition, Dr. Sultan notes.
What causes this condition?
Sultan said the exact cause of the winter blues is not fully understood but a number of factors are thought to contribute to its development.
Reduce sunlight. One of the main factors, he said, is reduced exposure to sunlight during the fall and winter months.
“This reduction in natural light can disrupt circadian rhythms and affect the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, which play an important role in regulating mood and sleep”.
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Genetic factors. Additionally, he said, genetic factors, imbalances in certain brain chemicals, and changes in melatonin and serotonin levels have all been linked to SAD.
What are the symptoms?
Dr. Sultan says symptoms of the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder can vary in severity, but they often include the following:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety
- Low energy and increased fatigue
- Increased need for sleep and difficulty waking up in the morning
- Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Social withdrawal and decreased interest in activities
- Irritability and increased sensitivity to rejection
“It is important to note that these symptoms typically occur in late fall or early winter and subside in spring as daylight hours increase,” he emphasized.
How can people boost their mood?
Brandon Santan, PhD, a therapist at Thrivepoint Counseling in Chattanooga, Tennessee, outlines several strategies and approaches to lift your mood and manage the winter blues.
Use light therapy. Consider using a light therapy box that emits bright, full-spectrum light that simulates natural sunlight.
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“Regular exposure to this light may help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the winter blues and SAD,” Santan told Fox News.
Do exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity, even indoors, can help improve mood and energy levels. He suggests considering indoor activities like yoga, dancing or using exercise equipment.
One expert says keep a gratitude journal to focus on the positive aspects of life and cultivate a more optimistic outlook.
Keep a sleep schedule. “Stick to a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day,” he says. “Adequate and high-quality sleep can have a positive impact on mood.”
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Watch your diet. Adopt a balanced diet, focusing on whole, nutritious foods. Pay attention to your sugar and carbohydrate intake, which can lead to energy crashes, he warns. He adds that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, may have a mood-boosting effect.
Be sociable. “Stay connected with friends and loved ones. Be social and participate in activities with others, even if it means doing so virtually,” Dr. Santan continued. happy.
Set goals and have structure. Set achievable daily goals and maintain a habit. This can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, he says.
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Practice mindfulness and relaxation. Practice mindfulness meditation or relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety. These practices can improve mood and spirit
Spend time outdoors. When possible, spend time outdoors during the day.
Even on overcast days, exposure to natural light can still be beneficial, says Dr. Santan.
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Practice gratitude. He also says to keep a gratitude journal to focus on the positive aspects of life and cultivate a more optimistic outlook.
Engage in self-care. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or pampering yourself in other ways, he suggests.
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