Lorie Johnson

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Relief for Wintertime Blues, a.k.a. 'SAD'

Are you sad in the winter? People have talked about those blues since before the Civil War. But in the last 30 years, doctors officially recognized it as a named, medical condition.

It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, and you can beat it!

SAD produces symptoms similar to hibernation. You're not as motivated to do things. You'd rather just sit around and eat.

The reason people get SAD is because of the decreased sunlight in the winter, which can disrupt our circadian rythym, also known as our body clock. Melatonin, a hormone which makes us feel tired, is triggered by darkness and reaches its highest levels at night. People sometimes also have increased melatonin levels during the day.

On the other hand, there's the neurotransmitter seratonin, which is triggered by sunlight and makes us feel happy. But people with SAD have low levels of seratonin.

SAD severely affects five percent of Americans and another twenty percent have a mild case and don't realize it.

A lot of people put on weight and blame it on the winter months. But people with SAD have a craving for carbohydrates and tend to overeat during the winter months and end up putting some weight on as a result of this medical condition.

Women are more affected than men and it's more prevalent in northern climates. But these people don't need to suffer any longer. So many people tend to ignore it and chalk it off as the winter blues, but people should know there are treatments for it.

Light therapy is a very effective treatment. It involves sitting in front of a specialized light box for 30 minutes a day. It needs to have a power of 10-thousand lux, which is more than 20 times stronger than the average light bulb.

The sensation of sitting in front of a light box is similar to sitting outside, sitting at the beach or under the sun. It doesn't emit any heat but it's just a very bright light... kind-of like your own personal box of sunshine!

Tanning beds are NOT and acceptable treatment for SAD because they emit ultraviolet rays which can cause melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Take it from me, as one who regularly suntanned outside and also used tanning beds in my 20s, and who, in my 40s contracted melanoma, there is never a good reason to step into a tanning bed.

The World Health Organization has classified ultraviolet tanning equipment as a known carcinogen, despite arguments from the tanning industry, that tanning causes skin cancer.

So if you are suffering with SAD, say "no" to the tanning bed, but "yes" to the light box.

And in addition to the light box, other ways to brighten up your life include using higher wattage light bulbs, installing a sky light, sitting closer to the window, trimming branches that block sunlight and simply opening the blinds.

If you have SAD and work in a dark environment, (like the CBN newsroom which has no windows!) try to make it a point to spend a few minutes outside every hour or so.

And if you are planning a winter vacation, go somewhere tropical if you can!

Although it's tempting for people with SAD to reach for their comforter, they should reach for their gym bag instead. This is because exercise is another great tool for fighting the effects of SAD.

A cardiovascular workout pumps oxygen into the brain, making us alert and energetic. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that create a feeling of euphoria.

So if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder also known as SAD, a few lifestyle changes can help you enjoy winter. Spring will be here before you know it!

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:33 AM

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