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Fight Those Winter Time Blues !

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By: Ian Williamson

In North America, it is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the population is affected by winter depression. There is a broad spectrum of symptoms that arise, from a change in sleep patterns and weight gain, to overwhelming suicidal thoughts and the unfortunate results. Think of it this way - fully half of the people you know are somewhat depressed in the wintertime!

Wintertime depression is very common in those parts somewhat north (or south) of the equator. People who live near the equator have a very low incidence of winter depression. Why? Simple. They live where there are enough daylight hours to avoid triggering the hormone imbalance that causes depression. Now, please note that I did not say that people near the equator spend more time sunbathing than northerners. It doesn't matter that they have a better tan. Rather, it is the length of the day that matters.

Again, it is the length of the day, not the weather! This fact about winter depression is what gave rise to the name Seasonal Affective Disorder. People who live in northern climes suffer because of the seasonally shortened days. Just as trees lose their leaves when the days shorten, people lose their happiness. People who live where the days shorten seasonally are victims of the brain's chemical reaction to lesser hours of daylight.

So, understanding that it is not your fault, what can you do?

First, start right now on a plan to extend the hours of daylight in your day by using light therapy. Light therapy is the most effective depression treatment known. All you need is a small bank of lights and the time to sit near them for a couple of hours each day.

The lights are the easy part. Get the cheapest fixture you can find that will hold four foot long fluorescent bulbs. Mine has four bulbs. Buy the best 'grow' lights. The kind that is best for plants. They are the closest match to the spectrum of sunlight. Do not use standard fluorescent bulbs. They are too green and will actually drain the energy out of you.

Research has shown that the best time to treat your winter depression with light therapy is early in the morning. It is best to make it your first task of the day. As well, this will give you some quiet time alone to read some uplifting material. It never hurts to get some positive input!

Reduce your stress by sticking to a daily routine. Get to bed on time so you can do your light therapy in the morning. Try to avoid annoying people. Get to work early and plan your day. Make a list of things to do and check them off as you accomplish them. Save the challenging projects for when you are not fighting your winter depression.

Next, decide that the weather will not affect your mood. You can't change the weather, so why be upset by it? If the weather is bad, allow a little extra time to get to work. It's simple, isn't it? Accept it and move on.

Then, improve your health. Eat a little less. Eat healthier foods. Exercise a little. Go for a walk. Did you know that it is nearly impossible to think bad thoughts while walking briskly? Drink water! The vitamin that people lack the most is plain old water.

Last, don't give up on yourself. If you feel bad, yell for help! Talk to someone. Those closest to you need to know how you are feeling. Tell them. If you can't talk to your family or a friend, go see your doctor. Go to a walk in clinic and see a nurse, a psychologist - somebody! And please, except if you are completely overwhelmed, do not take antidepressant medication. Yes, they will help if you are suicidal, but the long term side affects of these mind altering substances are extreme and not good for your overall health.

In summary, here are the seven things you can do now to overcome your winter depression:

1) Make or buy a light box. Use it in the morning. One to two hours every day.

2) Reduce your stress by having a daily routine.

3) Get enough sleep. Go to bed early so you can get up early and sunbathe in front of your lights.

4) Decide that the weather will not affect your mood.

5) Eat healthy. Get some exercise. Drink lots of water.

6) Talk about how you feel. Remember, 50% of people feel like you do, to one extent or another.

7) No matter how bad it gets, hang on! It will get better.

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