What are Winter Blues?
Many of us feel extremely tired and low around the time winter begins. This feeling of sadness and depression is also called winter blues.
Winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects a large segment of the population. It is depression that occurs every year during a particular season and can affect your mood and well-being.
It is a treatable condition, but it is important to notice its triggering factors and make suitable lifestyle changes.
What are the Symptoms of SAD?
The symptoms of SAD are more or less similar to depression. However, they tend to occur at a particular season every year. Some of the symptoms of SAD related to the winter season are:
- Lethargy. You feel exhausted and lack energy most of the time during the day.
- Hypersomnia. You feel the need to sleep excessively.
- Weight Gain. Your appetite is affected as you start overeating and gain weight.
- Loneliness. Winter blues can also cause you to feel socially isolated and lonely.
- Decreased Concentration. You may have difficulty focusing on one task and get distracted easily.
- Hopelessness. You may continuously worry and stop feeling hopeful about the future.
What are the Causes Behind Your Winter Blues?
The specific cause behind this disorder remains unclear. However, various factors that may play a role are:
- Decreased Hormone Levels. A reduction in various hormones in your body may also cause this disorder.
- Disturbed Biological Clock. Sunlight is not available abundantly during winters. This may disrupt your internal biological clock and lead to its onset.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
It is okay to feel down at times, but if you feel lethargic and depressed for days, then you should seek medical attention. If there are changes in appetite or sleep patterns, it may be a cause for concern.
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What are the Risk Factors Associated with It?
Some of the risk factors associated with SAD are as follows:
- Gender. Women are at a higher risk of feeling the winter blues.
- Age. The risk of developing depression is generally higher in people over the age of 50. However, this type of seasonal depression is seen more commonly in 18 to 30-year-olds.
- Family History. A family history of seasonal depression may put you at a higher risk of developing it.
How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder or Winter Blues?
The best way to treat seasonal affective disorders or winter blues is to look out for ways that can help us stay healthy through winter and help release the feel-good hormones in our body.
What are the Hormones That Impact Our Mood?
Our moods are at the mercy of some powerful brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. When these neurotransmitters are released in our body, we feel calm and become happy. However, low levels of neurotransmitters are linked with feelings of depression and loneliness.
Research suggests that eating different types of food can help the release of various neurotransmitters in our body. The two significant neurotransmitters that affect appetite and may help drive winter blues away are:
- Serotonin: Serotonin is the happy hormone present in our body. It can help elevate mood and reduce signs of depression. Carbohydrates play a crucial role in the release of serotonin that can help control and satisfy cravings.
- Dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine and norepinephrine are responsible for making us alert. Low levels of these hormones may make us feel distracted and isolated.
What are the Different Foods That Can Help Alleviate Winter Blues?
The following food items should be included in your diet to fight the winter blues:
- Yogurt. During winter, your metabolic system works twice as hard to keep your body warm. Yogurt contains live bacteria cultures that will help improve your gut health. You can eat it plain or add fresh fruits and cinnamon to add some taste.
- Lean Protein. Lean proteins like fish, beans, lentils, and chicken consists of various amino acids. These amino acids help in the production of neurotransmitters that positively affect our mood. They also provide us with energy and can help us beat the fatigue related to winter blues.
- Nuts. Nuts make a great snack option to munch on while hungry or in between meals. They consist of vitamins, fiber, and protein and should essentially be a part of your winter food mix.
- Fermented Foods. Fermented foods like yogurt are rich in good bacteria. They aid in the process of digestion and keep your gut healthy. Include fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut in your diet to fight away the winter blues.
- Carbohydrates. As we know, carbohydrates help release the feel-good hormone serotonin, thus consuming foods rich in carbohydrates like potatoes, whole grains, and quinoa may help elevate your mood.
- Foods Rich in Vitamins. Fresh fruits like kiwi, oranges, lemon, and berries come with the goodness of vitamin C and antioxidants. Health and wellness experts suggest that consuming 2-3 bowls of these fresh fruits each day can improve brain health and mental functioning.
- Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is everyone’s comfort food for a reason. It helps in the release of endorphins in your body that can help focus better. Dark chocolate consisting of 70% cocoa solids works as an instant fix for your mood and has various other health benefits to keep your body happy and healthy.
- Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids carry a range of health benefits and are also known to influence your mood. Consume flax seeds, seafood, and nuts that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate depression.
- Selenium. Selenium is a mineral or nutrient that occurs in various foods like whole grains, nuts, and beans. Selenium can help enhance your mood if consumed regularly and lift you away from your winter blues.
What are Some Preventive Measures for Winter Blues?
Some of the lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent it are:
- Exercise Daily. Exercising and stretching for even thirty minutes every day can help boost your mood.
- Hydrate Yourself. Your metabolic system works harder during winter. Hence, drink plenty of water to support it and avoid dehydrating yourself.
- Socialize. Try to go out, and socialize with friends and family to avoid feeling isolated.
Winter blues or SAD is not a critical condition and usually goes away on its own. However, take care to avoid any complications in the future. Following your doctor’s guidelines can help manage your health and drive the blues away!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can alcohol consumption affect winter blues?
Yes, alcohol consumption at first may seem to lift your mood. However, over time it usually worsens the symptoms.
What are the complications of SAD?
SAD is not a critical disorder and may go away after a few days. However, if it persists for a longer time, it may lead to severe depression or anxiety.
What are the other treatment options available for this condition?
Psychotherapy and medications are available to keep your winter blues at bay.