Winter and the Occasional Blues

Just because we live in a winter wonderland here in Utah doesn’t mean that we’re not susceptible to the winter blues. After all, every winter day’s not exactly a bluebird day with three feet of fresh powder. When you feel the winter blues, it’s not that the inversion or sub-zero temperatures are getting to you — you’re suffering from a real phenomenon called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD).

Beyond helping you look and feel great at Spa Vitoria, we also help with our patients’ health where we can. Toward that end, here’s a little information on why you may have more blue days during our Utah winters.

What exactly is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is a well-researched condition that is considered a sub-type of depression. People notice a change in the outlook at times that directly correlate to the changing seasons from summer into late fall and winter. These symptoms closely mimic those of depression. The difference with SAD is that those symptoms are limited to approximately the same times each year, whereas true depression can occur any time and be ongoing. Research shows that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, where seasonal changes are more pronounced, experience SAD more than those in the Southern Hemisphere.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

When the inversion builds in Salt Lake, pretty much everyone gets down. Some people wouldn’t qualify as a full SAD diagnosis, but most people still experience changes in energy, motivation, sleep patterns, and moods as the winter builds in.

These are defined symptoms of SAD:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Decreased interest in activities usually enjoyed
  • Feeling depressed most of the day, most days
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Suicidal ideas or thoughts of death
  • Feelings of hopelessness or low self-worth
  • Agitation
  • Sluggishness, low energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety

Why do we get SAD?

There is no direct causal link with SAD, but there are a few factors thought to contribute.

  • Reduced sunlight affects the body’s circadian rhythms (internal body clock), which can lead to feelings of depression. And when we go to work and return from work in the dark, that’s a serious lack of sunlight!
  • Reduced sunlight causes a drop in serotonin levels, which leads to depression, as serotonin affects moods.
  • Disruptions to melatonin levels, which also affect sleeping patterns and mood.

Decreased exposure to sunlight and the decreased interest in going outdoors obviously play a large part in SAD.

What can you do?

Here are three tips to help ward off SAD this winter:

  • Ensure you get at least one hour of outdoor light each day. Morning is the best time. If you can’t get outdoors, at least camp out by a sunny window.
  • Make an effort to keep socially active. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Make sure you stay physically active. Don’t hibernate physically.

This may take some effort, but there’s an old Norwegian saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Fortunately, there is no shortage of great winter wear, much of it produced locally.

Of course, another great antidote to the winter blues is a facial from Spa Vitoria. There’s nothing like the warm, comforting environment, and great tactile sensations. So, next time you’re sick of winter, give us a call at our Salt Lake City or Park City offices and book a facial!

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