For the next 6-7 months, most of us are going to have shorter, colder and wetter days. Do you feel slowed down and have a hard time waking up in the morning? Are you having problems focusing at work or in your relationships? Are you overeating and have a craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods? Do you have feelings of depression? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be one of the millions of people who have problems with the changing seasons.
Recent research indicates that most people in the northern United States and Europe experience some form of these seasonal changes in mood and behavior. Cyclists are very prone to the winter blues after being very active throughout the spring and summer spending a lot of time in the bright light. When winter comes most cyclists dramatically reduce their riding.
Lack of sunlight inhibits the production of an important mood regulator called serotonin. Depressive symptoms may occur when serotonin is not released in sufficient qualities. Melatonin, another important brain chemical that regulates our sleep cycle, is released in greater quantities, adding to the depressive state. For us to function well we need approximately 2 hours of natural light per day.
"Lack of sunlight inhibits the production of an important mood regulator called serotonin"
For those with a case of the winter blues. Experts suggest taking time for yourself to relax and meditate. Get outdoors even for a short walk. If you ski do it more. Winterize your bike and ride more. Ride an indoor trainer or rollers. Indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements. Listen to music. Stretch and do yoga.
St. John's Wort has had promising results in helping people with the winter blues. It is a natural herb that can increase the serotonin level. Positive results from St. John's Wort can take up to four weeks to be realized.
Bright light therapy has also been used to help. Specially designed lightboxes can deliver bright light. Exposure of 10,000 lux for 15-30 minutes a day at 20 inches can help rebalance the brain chemicals. Full Spectrum lighting in our homes and offices can also provide the aura of natural sunlight we need to function better.
If severe depression continues it is suggested to contact your doctor to discuss if you might benefit from other types of therapy.