During the winter, I get depressed. I long for spring, my favorite time of the year, and sunshine
Winter darkness can "get people down" and contribute to reduced productivity and creativity, Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of "Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder," told me in an interview.
Exercise helps me ease the winter blues. Walking outdoors on sunny or cloudy winter days and making one or more rooms in the home brighter also can help.
However, for some people winter brings depression, the need for more sleep, lack of energy, and a craving for starches and sweets that causes weight gain.
Rosenthal began studying individuals with these symptoms 26 years ago. He discovered a syndrome, which he called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
If your functioning is significantly impaired or you're experiencing significant feelings of depression at the onset of winter, you should seek medical advice, says Rosenthal.
Once you've been diagnosed with SAD, you can think through some of the things you can do to feel better.
Light boxes cost between $250 and $350. Look for a return policy of 30 days. Get the light box out, and start trying it when it arrives. Results are usually seen within two to four days.
Some people need 15 to 20 minutes a day of light therapy. Others may need considerably more. Once a regime is established, it must be undertaken daily.
Recent research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy -- problem-solving therapy or counseling -- is helping for treating SAD, as are certain antidepressants, Rosenthal says.
About 6 percent of Americans, 14 million, have SAD, while another 14 percent of adults suffer from winter blues.
Tomorrow's post will cover how the lack of sunshine, which helps the body make vitamin D, affects health.