Exercise great remedy for blues

Published 6:38 am Thursday, January 12, 2012

If you feel a little sad or sluggish during the winter months, you aren’t alone.

Ten to 20 percent of Americans suffer from mild symptoms associated with the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder affects up to five percent of the population, according to statistics provided by Dottie Black with Troy Regional Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Clinic.

Black was the speaker at this month’s Female Factor sponsored by TRMC.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Black said many people may experience some symptoms and not realize they are triggered by a biochemical imbalance brought on by the shortening of daylight hours and lack of sunlight in the winter months.

Downturn of mood, less energy, fatigue, boredom, weight gain, sleeping too much and less interest in being around people and doing activities you once enjoyed are all symptoms of the winter blues and SAD.

Your mood is partially influenced by sunlight, melatonin, serotonin and vitamin D, Black said. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that decreases with light exposure, serotonin is a hormone associated with wakefulness and elevated mood increases when it is light and light stimulates the production of vitamin D.

“Let there be light,” Black said, addressing the best way to remedy the blues. “A 10 minute walk outside is great. Even if it’s cold, put your coat on, take a blanket and go outside. Find a sunny window.”

Women and younger people are most susceptible to experiencing the winter blues and SAD. People in darker colder climates are also more at risk, Black said. Only about one percent of people in Florida get SAD, but about 10 percent of the population of New Hampshire develops SAD.

“Tanning beds are not an acceptable way to get your light,” Black said with a smile.

Another way to fight the blues is through diet.

“Supplement your happiness. Eat healthy. Eat fresh vegetables and avoid sugar,” Black said.

“Remember, you are not a bear. You shouldn’t hibernate,” Black added.

Instead, she suggests planning activities with family or friends, exercise and keeping a regular schedule.

Above all, Black said not to feel as if you are the only one who is feeling down. It’s important to talk to someone, or call a physician who can prescribe antidepressants or give other suggestions to help remedy the blues.

Black said, “Remember that this will pass and it’s OK to ask for help.”