Seasonal Affective Disorder may be worse in Minnesota

Do you often find your mood getting worse as the days get shorter? Don’t disregard these feelings as the “winter blues;” you may have Season Affective Disorder. Because of our long winters and short days, SAD is common among people throughout the Twin Cities.

Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you’re like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer. – Mayo Clinic

The transition to shorter days hits me hard every year. Sometimes I feel more emotionally drained, other times I feel disengaged and devoid of any energy. Does this sound like you? The good news is that there are things we can do to combat these seasonal depressions:

 Buy a SAD lamp – or as I like to call it – a Happy Lamp. Sunlight provides our bodies with vitamin D. When the days are short and we are often stuck inside the office, we do not get as much vitamin D as we are used to. These lamps recreate the benefits of sunlight. Read more about the benefits of vitamin D.

•  Vitamin D pills can be a less expensive alternative to a SAD (Happy) lamp. Other forms of medication and therapy can be prescribed by your doctor.

•  Exercise

Personally, I have only had limited success with my happy lamp and vitamin pills. The only thing that picks up my spirits during the winter is exercise.

Our culture knows that exercise is important for our physical health, but something that is rarely discussed is the influence exercise has on our mental well-being. Working out can release endorphins and neurotransmitters, which make us feel good. Working out is also a great way to change our mental focus from sadness or self-doubt to a positive activity that builds confidence and provides stress relief. All of these things can make you feel much better year round, but they may be of substantial help in the dark winter months in Minnesota.

I once asked a friend how she could justify $150 a month for her yoga classes. She responded that if she wasn’t spending it on yoga she’d be spending it on antidepressants and regular doctor visits. It was her mental health budget. And you know, that’s a pretty good argument.

Find time to workout. You’ll be happier.

If working out does not improve your mood, and you find there is little you can do to lift your spirits, you should consult your doctor.

Mark Spurbeck

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