ADVERTISING: Advertorial ­— DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: Keeping positive in the winter months

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Do you like it when it is cold, grey, dark, rainy and snowy outside? Spending time at home with some movies, blankets and hot tea sounds like heaven to me, but for others, the “winter blues” can be hard to get through.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. SAD is estimated to affect about 9% of the population in Northern climates (versus 1% in Florida) and is diagnosed about four times more in women than men.

SAD is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. Symptoms include change in appetite, concentration problems, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, lethargy, hopelessness or sometimes even despair, and feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day.

Here are some tips to help you beat the winter blues.

Exercise. You can keep it simple, but you must get moving. Whether it is going for a walk, swimming, biking, yoga or going to the gym to lift some weights, does not matter. Your body will release serotonin, the happy hormone. Serotonin is good for your health and makes you feel more upbeat for the rest of the day.

Be social and stay connected. It may be tempting to hibernate during these months, but social interaction bonds us and improves mood. Say yes to invitations. If your family and loved ones are far away, use technology to stay involved: volunteer, take a class or join a committee.

Watch your diet, especially the processed carbs and sugars. It is too easy to reach for sweets when you are feeling down. Instead, eat fruits, veggies and lots of oily fish or avocado, and make sure you take a vitamin D3 supplement. There is not enough sunshine in Idaho for our skin to produce sufficient levels of it, so deficiencies are common here.

Use light therapy, also called phototherapy. This involves sitting a few feet from a special light box within the first hour of waking up each day. Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.

Listen to your favorite upbeat songs. Music has a profound effect on the brain. When using MRI to study the brain, certain tasks like speaking, thinking and moving light up very specific areas of the brain. When listening to music, virtually the entire brain lights up on MRI! There is nothing more stimulating and up-lifting.

The winter months can be used as a time to reflect, focus, plan and prepare for the busier more active months. Ask your doctor for help if you feel your depression is worsening.

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For more information, contact Dr. Wendy Cunningham at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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