Don't be "SAD". Enjoy the Chill!

I hope you are staying warm and finding ways to get outside and exercise even though we are in the midst of winter.  The weather hasn’t been too bad here in Pittsburgh this season, but it still feels bone-chilling to someone like me who prefers to spend her winters in Florida!  I think we all did a little happy dance last week when Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticator of prognosticators, came out with his prediction for an early spring.

Still, there is something to be said for that cold, crisp air on your face.  I actually love running in the cold (not death-cold mind you – maybe the 30s).  It is a wonderful feeling to be bundled up appropriately and working your body enough to stay warm while your nose is tingling from the cold.  Sure you can go to the gym or hit the treadmill in your basement.  That’s a great way to keep moving during the cold weather.  However, too much time indoors can have a negative effect on your mood and stress levels, leaving you feeling SAD.  

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, during the winter months when the days are short.  Experts believe that shorter periods of daylight upset your circadian rhythms which control your body temperature and sleep/wake cycle.  This can leave you feeling moody, anxious, or foggy, and can even cause you to overeat.  

The short, gloomy days of winter in the North region certainly contribute to this feeling.  However, even gloomy daylight is better than none.  Bundle up and get outside, especially in the morning.  The natural daylight and crisp air will help to recharge and energize you.  Aim for a 30-60 minute walk outside on days when the temperature and weather conditions allow. Make sure you protect those fingers, toes and ears.  Dress appropriately and be careful of road conditions.

If time outside isn’t helping your symptoms, you might try a light-therapy lamp like the ones from Verilux.  My desk lamp actually has this technology built into it and I truly believe it helps.  Obviously, if you have serious symptoms such as severe depression, reach out to your doctor. 

Bottom line - try to enjoy the cold weather while it is here.  It won’t be long before everyone is complaining about the heat and humidity!