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Punxsutawney Phil predicts longer winter, don't get SAD

Good old reliable groundhog Punxsutawney Phil says we are going to have six more weeks of a frozen winter wonderland.

Punxsutawney Phil
Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Sunday Phil came out of his lair in front of thousands at the time of daybreak on Gobbler's Knob, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Legend says if the fuzzy rodent sees his shadow on February 2, winter will last another six weeks. If he doesn't see it, spring will come early. On Sunday, he saw his shadow.

This year's Groundhog Day marks a winter with extreme cold across the nation, as well as a snow and ice storms that have paralyzed Atlanta, Alabama and other Southern cities.

It's also taken a toll on people's mental and emotional health, making many people SAD. Seasonal affective disorder, also known as, SAD is a form of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Most people with SAD have it at the start of fall and it can continue into the winter, draining energy and creating moodiness.

SAD symptoms include:
Loss of energy
Social withdrawal
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Appetite changes, craving for carbohydrates
Weight gain
Difficulty concentrating and processing information

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder isn’t known. It's likely, genetics, age and the body's natural chemical makeup that all play a role. A few specific factors may include:
1. Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in winter may disrupt the body's internal clock, telling when to sleep or be awake. This disruption may lead to feelings of depression.
2.Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the natural hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Ask a doctor whether taking melatonin supplements is a good option.
3. Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, might cause SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, perhaps causing depression.

What you can do to help:
1. Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, add skylights and trim tree branches that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows.
2. Get outside. Take a long walk, go to a nearby park, or sit outside and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help, especially if outside within two hours of waking up in the morning.
3. Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD. Being fit can make you feel better about yourself, lifting your mood.

Treatment for SAD includes light therapy, psychotherapy and medications. Talk to a doctor. Addressing the problem can help keep your mood and motivation steady through the year.

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