Cheerful festivities during the Christmas and New Year season brighten our lives. But as those days slip away into the darker and colder days of January, many people may end up feel sad and depressed; overly tired and sleeping too much; and finding a change in appetite, even weight gain. For those who have what many describe as the “winter blues”, scientists describe this disorder as “seasonal affective disorder”, or SAD. This moodiness, scientists say, could be caused by a hormonal imbalance triggered by the shorter, darker days of winter.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, studies show that 4 to 6 percent of Americans—mostly women and young adults—suffer from SAD. Especially vulnerable are people who live far from the equator and whose family members have had a history of depression or bipolar disorder.
But there are several steps people can take to overcome SAD, according to one medical website. Among these steps include getting a prescription for an antidepressant that can balance chemicals in the brain to reduce negative emotions and appetite issues. Another step forward is to seek psychotherapy to deal with negative emotions and depression.
The website also suggests changing one’s scenery—that is, maybe taking a trip to a sunny location—to boost one’s mood. And finally, many professionals recommend frequent exercise—maybe extensive walking or going to a gym—to get the body to release endorphins that reduce pain and help people to feel better.
And if you are feeling SAD, it may certainly be the time to head to the grocery store and then to your kitchen: the right foods can reshape your outlook to become both positive and cheerful. According to Julia Ross, MA and the director of the Recovery Systems Clinic in San Francisco, she recommends that people should eat wisely. “This means, pushing away the leftover cake and eating sensible carbs to stimulate serotonin,” she said. “Sweets and simple carbs, like white rice and white bread, quickly raise blood sugar, flood you with insulin, and then drop you in a hole.”
Ross also advocates eating protein a least three times a day and add assorted “brightly colored” vegetables to your daily meal plan. Indeed, vegetables, like ice cream, are carbs, but are digested more slowly into your system. And as a final list of must-haves when you can’t go marketing, Ross suggests the following: popcorn; oatmeal; nuts; egg whites for omelets; peanut butter; rinsed vegetables; fruit; whole-grain bread and crackers; and cottage cheese. (https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/foods-that-fight-winter-depression)
While scientific studies about dealing with SAD may not mention prayers, Catholics with SAD may find spiritual comfort by turning to prayer. According to an article on the website Catholic Share, “The concept of turning to God in prayer during times of emotional suffering is a universal teaching of the Church. It’s not merely an opinion or a recommendation; it’s rooted deeply in both Scripture and Tradition.”
Prayer may certainly help deal with SAD emotional and mental issues. According to Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, daily prayer has many benefits, including “prayer uplifts or calms, it inhibits the release of cortisol and other hormones, thus reducing the negative impact of stress on the immune system and promoting healing.”