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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Beating the winter blues

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Around this time of year when the winter seems to drag on and it seems hard to believe that spring is just weeks away, it can be easy for the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder, to creep up on those of us that live in the Northeast. Here are some practical and simple ideas to employ to stay upbeat in the cold and snow.

Get exercise every day, even if just a 20-minute walk during your lunch break. As tempting as it is to lounge on the couch after work/on weekends under a fleece blanket all day, exercise has been shown to alleviate depression symptoms.

Let the natural light in your windows as soon as you wake up, even on cloudy/snowy days. If possible, get outside each day for a walk or to eat lunch. Dress for the weather!

Get a winter hobby. Try a winter sport such as skiing, sledding or snow shoeing. Not into snow? Try an indoor bowling league or book club.

Eat nutritiously! It can be more tempting during the cold months to eat more sugar and carbs, but your body fights off stress better with a balanced diet.

Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, thus can make depressive symptoms worse.

Challenge yourself! Try a new experience- grab a friend and sign up for a cooking or pottery class, or a new class at the gym. Zumba anyone?

Plan an annual vacation for somewhere warm during the winter months. Florida? Caribbean?

Additional help- Some people have been helped with the use of a light box that produces natural light at a high intensity. If you think you have seasonal affective disorder or another depressive disorder, please speak with your doctor and get a referral to a psychologist and/or psychiatrist. Many people find relief through therapy, medications, or both. See the articles linked below for more information on depression symptoms, such as sleep problems and sadness.

Some people will need a light box that mimics natural light and is associated with changes in neurochemicals such as serotonin that are associated with mood. See your doctor for more information about how to obtain one.

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