By Rick Halle-Podell, Licensed Massage Therapist, Founder of Massage Therapy of Oak Park
Winter is a miserable season for nearly 10 million Americans. Reduced amounts of sunlight during Winter’s short days causes mood and behavioral changes known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And it makes routine living difficult. Depression, fatigue and food binging are common among those who suffer from this disorder.
SAD is further complicated by the fact that many of us spend too little time outside in natural light. Added to this is the fact that when many of us do go out, we wear sunglasses and spend our working days in artificially-lighted buildings only to return home in the evening to end our day under more artificial light.
For some, particularly in the North, problems can begin in October, where it affects 30% of the population vs. only 8% in warmer climates. If you experience moodiness, depression or lethargy that lifts as sunlight returns in the Spring, consider the possibility that you may have SAD.
Relieving the Effects of SAD
Light is a nutrient that naturally raises serotonin levels in our brain. Serotonin is a neurohormone that has been shown to alleviate depression and/or pain levels. To lessen the effects of SAD, try some or all of the following:
- Increase the intensity of the lights in your house with Chromalux bulbs or full spectrum lights from Verilux
- Exercise aerobically to burn calories and release endorphin hormones
- Take a walk and enjoy the fresh air on bright, sunny, winter days
- Stay outdoors with no sunglasses for at least 15 minutes, but up to 60 minutes if possible
- Travel south for a vacation
- Treat yourself to a massage as it helps the body relax, releases endorphins, increases serotonin levels, lowers stress and increases immune system response