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Dr. Balter Explains The Winter Blues

You may have noticed the days are getting shorter.  You may also have noticed that you are feeling sluggish and grouchy.  It may not be a coincidence.   Around this time of year when the days are shorter, many people find themselves suffering from the blahs.  A lack of daylight is associated with a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  And some people feel sad all the way from late fall until the spring. 


Scientists think that the reduced light affects a part of our hormone system that maintains our bodily clocks.  To be precise, the pineal gland regulates our hormones and when it doesn’t receive an adequate amount of light it can lead to emotional depression. 


It is estimated that SAD affects millions of people.  The common symptoms include listlessness, a craving for carbs, a lack of motivation and, of course, depression.  Fortunately, there are ways to cope with this condition. 


One of the best ways to counteract depression is vigorous exercise.  Force yourself to go to the gym or develop an exercise regimen at home.  Working out is tough when you are feeling down, but you will thank your hormones for lifting your spirits after a challenging workout.  If you can get interested in outdoor activities and winter sports, that is a great thing to pursue, as well.


Create opportunities to be with people.  Social withdrawal is a common symptom of SAD, but it exacerbates matters to be socially isolated.  Don’t wait for invitations:  Take the initiative and ask friends over, make dinner plans, and enroll in a class.   Resist the temptation to just curl up and stay under the covers.


Light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Using a light box, you can treat yourself for SAD.  For scientific information on this condition and its self-treatment, please click the following links:

So, if you are one of the millions who suffer from light deprivation that leads to depression, there are things you can do to get through the long dark winter months without letting it get the better of you.  To be sure, there is light at the end of the winter tunnel.  Take heart in the knowledge that around December 22, the days begin to get longer again. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun