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Light and SAD

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The thin white sheet of snow covering the trees and ground, and the cool icy blues that dominate the morning scene, bring with it a mood. Even though, according to a Gallup poll, only 11% of Americans prefer the winter season. There is a growing effort to find things to uplift one’s spirit during the colder, darker months with shorter days.

The mood variation with the seasons has been acknowledged for a long time. It wasn’t until 1984 that the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was first used. SAD usually occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year and can be caused by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter, changing your biological clock (circadian rhythm).

The decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which may trigger depression. Serotonin is a hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep. It is also a neurotransmitter, which means that it transmits messages between nerve cells. Fewer hours of sunlight means that less serotonin is produced.

Some symptoms of SAD, also known as “the winter blues,” include social withdrawal, school or work problems and substance abuse. It can also cause mental health disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, or thoughts of suicidal ideation.

Even in these dark winter months, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

There are some natural ways we can fight off SAD. We can exercise and add a vitamin d supplement in addition to eating foods high in Vitamin d, such as cod liver oil, salmon, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with vitamin d, and dairy and plant milk fortified with vitamin d.

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Get outside. Talk it out and reach out for help when sad feelings persist.

Some therapists find light therapy an effective form of treatment. Light therapy is a box that mimics outdoor light. It’s thought that this type of light may cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD, such as being tired most of the time and sleeping too much.

Everyone is not affected by SAD, but those of you who are, as there are flowers that bloom in spring and summer and also in fall and winter.

As always, consult your Doctor to find the best strategies for your unique health conditions.

Words by Kaba Abdul-Fattaah.

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