Beat the Winter Blues
by Steve Halsall
A Celebrity Personal Trainer
Don’t be moody. This time of year is often associated with a mood and attitude change commonly known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is thought that in the UK 1 in 50 people have SAD and 1 in 8 have milder symptoms commonly known as the "winter blues".
SAD begins around September and continues until April. The worst months are January and February. Some of the typical symptoms of SAD are:
- Sleep problems - including oversleeping
- A change in appetite especially a craving for sweet or starchy food resulting in overeating and weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Physical symptoms are headaches, palpitations, aches and pains.
As the days are shorter and darker we produce more of the hormone melatonin which is the body’s way of getting to sleep, of slowing down. It's secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-size structure at the center of the brain. And this in turn means our circadian rhythm is altered, circadian rhythm is our natural daily rhythm of all our bodily functions.
Now it's one thing to sit there all depressed and not do anything about it, which never changed anything, did it, or get moving and do something about it.
Although research is mixed, more and more people are finding using a light box useful in combating SAD. Don’t confuse this with using a sun bed. This has too many potentially harmful UV rays and is not the same as a ‘Light box’. You could get what’s known as a Dawn Simulator, this is attached to an alarm clock and gives the brain the illusion of natural light waking you up.
Different products have different settings but generally thirty to sixty minutes per day is recommend. Always read the instructions before using a light box.
Spending more time outside obviously would help and getting stuck into a regular exercise routine has been proven to keep you feeling positive and energized.
Make time, you know from my experience, you ALWAYS feel better after exercise. So even if you are not a member of a gym, you should and can still make time to get around the block or local park and get a sweat on. Three to four times per week for up to an hour will make all the difference, even if it is just a brisk walk. It’s time well spent and it will make all the other hours you give to other things seem happier and calmer.