With shorter days and increased darkness, many of us find that decreased energy and mood soon follow. For some, this shift can be dramatic and affect their entire sense of well-being.
What are the winter blues?
Winter depression, sometimes known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression that only occurs at certain times of the year, typically beginning in autumn and lasting during the winter months. It is thought to be caused by lack of sunlight and can be debilitating for some.
How are Canadians affected?
Those living in northern climates are more susceptible to SAD during the winter months as the amount of daylight decreases the further away from the equator you are. Approximately 2−3% of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime, with another 15% experiencing a milder form of seasonal depression that does not disrupt their life. About 10% of all depression cases are made up of seasonal affective disorder sufferers.
What can you do?
- Let your light shine, literally
Light therapy is one option that has been shown to offer relief for up to 80% of people experiencing SAD. Consider switching to full-spectrum light bulbs that more closely mimic sunlight and adding more lamps to the spaces you spend the most time in.
- Move it
Move your body, move your desk, and move your furniture so that you sit closer to windows and natural light during the day, and be sure to break a sweat as often as possible.
- Get outside
Even if the weather is bleak, push yourself to get outside during daylight hours. A lunchtime walk, even for 20 minutes, can work wonders for mood, increase light exposure, support circulation, and give you a good dose of fresh air to help energize your brain for the afternoon.
- Mood food
Carbohydrate cravings can skyrocket during the dark winter months. But giving in to them can create a roller coaster of blood sugar dips and spikes that can only further exacerbate mood imbalances. Choose foods that will satisfy and sustain while supporting brain and mood health. These can include healthy fats like omega-3s, complex carbohydrates such as veggies, beans, and whole grains, and good sources of protein like free-range eggs and meats, wild salmon, beans, nuts, and seeds. Foods naturally high in the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, such as the good quality proteins listed above, can also help support mood.
- Supplemental support
A variety of natural health products can help support mood balance and get you through the winter months. Synergistic formulas based on 5-HTP can also offer support for mood balance.
The information and tips provided here can help give you insight into seasonal depression, but they don’t replace the advice of a health care provider. If you are having trouble coping or are experiencing symptoms of depression, reach out and speak to someone. Mental health is a crucial component to our well-being and support is available in many forms.
 Health Canada – Drug and Health Products