Early morning sunshine and physical exercise is good for your mind and your body
Do you need to combat the WINTER BLUES? read this great article by Beyond Blue…
It's not unusual for people to dread the passing of summer and the onset of winter. Balmy nights spent outdoors are replaced by colder, darker evenings which force people to spend more time indoors.
For some people however, disliking winter can be much more than simply missing warm weather and summer activities. Winter can become a severely debilitating and isolating time as they try to manage symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - but is it depression?
Associate Professor Michael Baigent, Clinical Advisor to beyondblue says SAD is a depressive illness that has a seasonal pattern. It's characterised by mood disturbances that begin in winter and subside when the season ends.
It's usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years.
"The behaviour associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder is quite different from the mood changes a lot of people feel because of the change of season and the disruptions to their summer lifestyle. With SAD, the depression symptoms are more about 'slowing down'. People sleep more, eat more and usually crave carbohydrates which leads to weight gain. They'll have a lot less energy and won't want to spend time with others. SAD has a cluster of symptoms that makes the person look like they are going into 'hibernation'," Dr Baigent said.
The cause of the disorder is believed to be a lack of exposure to light. There is a much higher prevalence of SAD in countries with shorter days and longer periods of darkness such as Finland, Alaska and northern parts of Russia.
The pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain responds to darkness by secreting melatonin which regulates daily biorhythms including the sleep/wake cycle. It's believed that when this is out of balance, SAD can occur.
"It's important for people to get up in the morning and get some exposure to sunlight, ideally before 8am. Dawn and morning light is believed to be integral in regulating our biorhythms. Combining this with exercise is really important. If people feel this is not helping they should go to their doctor for more advice," Dr Baigent said.
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