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Winter can be a beautiful time. The way the snow blankets our landscapes is calming and picturesque, snowboarding and skiing make for great outdoor adventures, and witnessing the joy of a child sledding or playing in the snow is a remarkable thing. 

However, it can also feel tragic and spur misery for some. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what some might refer to as the Winter Blues, is a very real thing. People can slip into a depression during the winter season and it can afflict anyone. It’s a form of depression triggered on by the change in seasons, and about 4 to 6 percent of people suffer from it – it becomes as high as 20 percent when you account for mild forms of the disorder. 

Unfortunately some people tend to downplay SAD’s detrimental effects on someone’s wellbeing. It limits people’s ability to enjoy their lives and properly function during the season.

The largely suspected impetus for SAD is the lack of sunlight throughout the winter. It drains serotonin levels, a brain chemical that plays a critical role in mood regulation. Counteracting the Winter Blues means finding ways to boost serotonin. 

A good starting point is introducing more light to your day. Light therapy, which mimics natural outdoor light, can be effective. Purchase a light box for your home or office that provides the bright rays capable of elevating serotonin levels to combat diminished light. And when the sun is out, get outside. Yes, it’s cold, but bundle up and go for a walk. Spending at least 30 minutes outside a day might offset seasonal drops in serotonin. A tranquil walk through snow-covered woods can be a major morale boost – it’s such a pretty sight! 

Exercising, which is a good year-round activity, becomes exceptionally critical during the winter months. Aerobic exercise can boost serotonin and keep it elevated for hours following a workout. It gets you up and moving, alleviating that down-and-out feeling. Weight gain is a common trait when stricken with SAD, so exercise definitely helps combat that as well. 

Maintaining a regular sleeping schedule also helps during this time. People afflicted with SAD experience troubles sleeping at night and waking in the morning. A regular sleeping schedule exposes you to light at consistent and reliable times. Sleeping during the day, during the short time there is light, compounds the issue. 

While a night in on the couch enjoying some Netflix sounds like an ideal winter night, remain social. Don’t solely be a shut-in. Mental activity, like physical activity, is important. Conversing with others can help subside those somber thoughts associated with SAD. Surrounding yourself with friends and the ones you love can go a long way. 

And if it comes to it, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Your mental wellbeing is important, don’t overlook it. Talking with a professional can prevent something more serious from developing.