Beating the Winter Blues with Exercise and Other Tips
Feeling the winter blues? It could be more than you think. Season Affect Disorder is often called SAD. The acronym accurately describes what earlier sunsets and longer nights mean for up to 3 percent of the general population and up to 20 percent for those with a diagnosed depressive disorder. SAD is depression associated with late autumn and winter and is thought to be caused by a lack of light. Although the exact cause and science behind SAD are not known for certainty, there are some steps you can take to lessen its hold. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. The stimulation of these chemicals through exercise is one step you can take to combat SAD.
People who are predisposed to SAD may be triggered by a lack of sunshine. A few theories suggest:
Biological clock change: With less exposure to sunlight, the biological clock shifts. This internal clock regulates mood, sleep and hormones, and changes, which may make it difficult to regulate regulating moods.
Brain chemical imbalance: Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters send communications between nerves. These chemicals include serotonin, which contributes to feelings of happiness. People at risk of SAD may already have less serotonin activity. Since sunlight helps regulate serotonin, the lack of winter sun can make the situation worse. Serotonin levels can fall further, leading to mood changes.
Vitamin D deficit: Serotonin also gets a boost from vitamin D. Sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D, less sun in the winter can lead to a vitamin D deficiency thereby affecting serotonin levels.
Melatonin boost: Melatonin is a chemical in the brain that signals cues to sleep. The lack of sunlight might trigger a large increase in melatonin causing profound sleepiness through the winter.