Only 74 more days until March 20. What some people like to call the "vernal equinox." You know, the first day of spring.
But who’s counting, right? Certainly not people in states like Arizona, Nevada or California. There the sun is always shining. Or so it seems.
For the rest of us, there is winter. For some of us, there is a very long winter. Dark. Gray. Dreary. Cold – miserably cold. And depressing.
This kind of winter depression is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It may surprise you that SAD has little to do with how cold it is. Instead it’s all about sunlight. Or the lack of it, to be exact.
Sunlight is an important visual cue for your body. It lets your brain know that it is "showtime." Time to be awake, alert and active. Your brain responds by adjusting your body temperature and certain hormone levels.
The long, dark days of winter deprive your body of this signal. As a result, you may feel sluggish, sleepy and depressed. Like other forms of depression, SAD is more common in women.
To combat SAD the best thing you can do is to "see the light." Let your eyes see as much sunlight as possible. Sit by a window during the day. Go outside for a walk on your lunch break.
You can supplement this natural light with bright light therapy. In the morning you sit near a small "light box" at home for a specific length of time. This exposes your eyes to intense but safe amounts of bright light.
A study in 2007 also found that cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective treatment for SAD. It can be used alone or together with light therapy. Some medications also may help treat SAD.
As with any other medical problem, you should discuss SAD with your doctor. He or she can develop a treatment plan for you.
What are you doing to cope with SAD this winter?