With days of sunshine and warm temperatures becoming scarce, you might be feeling anything but holiday cheer.
You’re not alone.
Known as the wintertime blues or SAD (seasonal affective disorder), this condition causes individuals with otherwise-normal mental health to experience depressive symptoms during specific seasons.
Research suggests SAD may affect about 11 million people in the U.S. each year, with another 25 million suffering from a milder form of wintertime blues. Women are more likely to suffer from SAD than men, with a 4-1 ratio.
And the closer you live to either the North or South poles, the more likely you are to be affected.
Typically, SAD will occur at the same time every year with a variety of symptoms, from lack of energy to an increased tendency toward humbuggery. Extreme symptoms can include dramatic weight gain and even suicide.
Click here to read more about the symptoms of SAD.
Do you have the wintertime blues? What do you do when you feel the onset of SAD?
We asked some Chattanooga-area professionals to suggest some helpful remedies.
"SAD is tricky because there is a physical component—a lack of vitamin D," according to Dr. Shelley Prevost, a positive psychologist and resident cultural engineer at Lamp Post Group.
The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 1 billion people worldwide suffer from a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.
The simple solution, then, would be to expose your skin to sunlight. But what if there isn’t any?
You could try light therapy, or as Prevost suggests, elevate your mood by hanging out with people in a social setting.
"SAD can be mitigated through social interactions," she said. "Contrary to popular belief, winter is not the time for hibernating. Socializing can boost oxytocin levels, which can counteract bouts of depression. This is good anytime, but especially in the darker months."
Prevost also suggests changing your perspective on the season.
"I always see January as newness, a time ripe with possibilities and not the postholiday drudgery," she said. "It’s all how you look at it."
She suggests reading inspirational literature like "Man’s Search for Meaning" and letting it guide you toward self-evaluation.
"Acknowledging life—all the good and bad—as well as talking about the emotions around it really do help with SAD," Prevost said.
Mindfulness and meditation
"Mindfulness practice and meditation can certainly be a useful addition to someone’s toolbox for dealing with SAD," said Yong Oh, acupuncturist and instructor at the Center for Mindful Living.
A regular meditation practice can help create a degree of balance and calm and a sense of being more centered as you wade through the changes in season.
"As we feel a mood coming on or sense a sinking of our energy, we can practice refraining from feeding and perpetuating the moods with obsessive thoughts and patterns of negative thinking," he said. "If we do get pulled under, practicing mindfulness in the present moment may help us learn to recognize and appreciate the beauty this season has to offer, instead of only ruminating on what’s lacking or wrong."
Oh suggests regular practice can help with patience throughout the season and actually change your perspective.
Get up and move.
Allen Bible is a physical therapist with Center for Integrative Medicine and Access 2 Rehab, which treats patients who work for the city of Chattanooga.
"It is well-documented that exercise is good for you and can decrease levels of anxiety and depression, as well as improve overall sense of well-being, but [it's] not always easy to get motivated," Bible said. "You should be aware of how exercise can play a vital role in combating SAD."
According to Bible, research suggests the most helpful type of exercise is earlier in the day, outdoors, after sunrise and should have an aerobic component. Swimming, cycling, jogging and walking can all be helpful.
"It appears that exercise at night may have a negative effect for individuals with SAD due to the timing of melatonin release," he said. "Exercising with a friend or group of friends is especially helpful because of the social component and accountability."
Bible said a simple morning walk should help with SAD.
Disclaimer: Nooga.com's parent company is Lamp Post Group, but editorial decisions for this publication are made independently of the Lamp Post Group.
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