This is the time of year when many people start to feel a little down, with winter coming and it getting dark so early. For some people, the symptoms may be more extreme and include fatigue, less energy and an increased need for sleep, more interest in food (especially "comfort food") and perhaps an associated weight gain, trouble concentrating and even an increased desire to be alone.
Finding this season difficult is not unusual. As many as 20 per cent of us will exhibit some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Less sunlight pays a part, because it affects the body's internal clock and may impact your hormones. For example, you may have more melatonin at this time of year, a hormone connected to sleep that is affected by the amount of light you get. More melatonin makes you more sleepy and may give you an all over drowsy feeling. It's almost like you want to hibernate for the winter!
So what can you do to feel better?
A dose of sun in the south is obviously great. But if you can't afford the time or money involved, try getting more sun here at home. Bundle up and get outside! Exercise in natural light is a huge help. You may benefit from Vitamin D supplements as well; many Canadians become low in Vitamin D in the winter.
Give yourself something to look forward to. Is this the time to sign up for that course you wanted to take or those ballroom dancing lessons? Anything that will get you out of the house, learning and interacting with people, and will give you a sense of accomplishment, is likely a good thing.
Invite friends over instead of toughing it out alone. Making a big pot of soup or stew with friends and then playing some kind of game or sharing a fun activity is better than watching tv or surfing the Internet by yourself. This is a good time to make a real effort to be sociable, to help you combat the impact of SAD. Also, being nicer to your partner, if you have one, and finding ways to show appreciation for their good qualities and their love, can only help YOU feel better.
It's likely that our holiday rituals -- trees, lights and shared food -- were partially a response to the decrease in light. Whatever the reason, make the most of this time of year and try to be grateful for every little bit of beauty, be it frost on the leaves or a lovely decorated home. Spring will come, and concentrating on our friends and our blessings will help us get the most out of every day on the way there.