Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Beating the winter blues


The call it the winter blues, but that's not entirely accurate. For most people it starts in late autumn, when the light seems to go out, not just in their surroundings, but also inside themselves. The more technical term, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, as Jane Brody points out in today's NYT, encompasses a broader seasonal range. In fact, many sufferers start to get better by the time midwinter actually gets here.
There are several remedies to help those affected by SAD escape an affliction that leaves many wanting to climb into bed, put their heads under the covers and not come out until spring. Indeed, some experts refer to SAD as a form of hibernation.

The problem typically starts gradually as the days become shorter in late summer or fall and peaks in midwinter in regions where there may be just 9 or 10 hours of daylight, if that.
Today's column by Brody offers a useful summary of current research and remedies. She also cites Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal's standard reference, “Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder,” which came out with a revised edition this year. She mentions light therapy and ion therapy (popularized in the TV show "Men in Trees," where a light box was part of a running gag)), but also recommends alternatives like cognitive therapy, eating more protein and cutting back on carbohydrates and getting plenty of exercise.

I'm probably in the middle of the SAD spectrum myself -- not enough to totally cripple me, but enough to often get really miserable after we set our clocks back. For what it's worth, the times I suffered least was when I was doing a lot of walking every day, come rain or shine, and eating a high protein diet.

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