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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Got the winter blues?

January 21, 2014

winter blues

If you’ve been feeling down lately, there may be more to it then the fact winter break has come to an end.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people starting in the fall and throughout winter. This is because as the days get shorter and the weather colder, we spend less time outdoors soaking up sunlight and our much-needed Vitamin D.

On average, SAD affects 2-3 per cent of Canadians. Living in cold climates like ours (yay for Manitoba!), we’re especially susceptible to developing SAD. Some of the symptoms include irritability, moodiness, fatigue, a lack of motivation and increased appetite.

“The two things people notice most is that they want to sleep longer and eat more often”, says Tessa Blaikie, youth mental health promotions worker at the Canadian Mental Health Association Winnipeg. “This is because our bodies are lacking the energy we typically get from the sun and is looking to get it from somewhere else. It’s one reason people experience weight gain during the winter.”

Think you might be experiencing SAD? There are a couple surprisingly simple ways to feel better fast.

Since the best way to absorb sunlight in the winter is through your eyes, one of the ways to do this is by spending at least 10 minutes outdoors (I know, I know — it’s freezing!) without sunglasses on. Another possibility is to take a Vitamin D supplement each day.

For people who may be experiencing more severe symptoms, there are lamps that recreate the same light waves the sun does called SAD lamps. The lamps are easy to use (you wear them on your head) and the light is always in your peripheral so you can read, walk around, make lunch — whatever you need to do. They start at about $70 each and are widely available at health stores.

Looking for more information on SAD? Read this article from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.