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Debasmita Ghosh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 12, 2012
Waking up with a gloomy mood and not feeling like heading to work is not uncommon this season. But if the feeling of depression continues through the day, and you do not find any motivation in anything whatsoever, then you could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). “It is a condition wherein depression sets in during the autumn and winter months. Patients go into hibernation mode. They might also experience an increase in their sleep and appetite, unlike the other forms of depression wherein one loses sleep and appetite. Other symptoms include a loss of pleasure and interest, feelings of lethargy and fatigue, and low self-esteem. People experience sadness, irritability and face difficulties coping with the requirements of day to day life,” explains Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare Limited.

What’s the trigger?
Reduced sunlight is the greatest cause of winter depression, leading to an increase in melatonin, a hormone responsible for mood disorders. “Melatonin is secreted in the dark, and people have more of it in their bloodstream during winter,” says clinical psychologist Shilpi Ashta, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute. “It also leads to an imbalance in serotonin levels, causing altered mood states. Varying lengths of day and night can also interfere with sleep cycles, triggering off a depressive episode,” adds Dr Parikh.

Quick fixes to lift your mood
Face the sun:
Take in as much sunshine as possible. Try to get the morning light by going out for a walk or sitting by the window side.
Exercise regularly: It might be difficult to motivate yourself up to it, but regular exercise can help in lifting the mood.
Have meals outdoors: Going out for a hearty brunch or walking out of office for a quick lunch break can also help one to be exposed to the much-needed natural light during winter. Even if it is cloudy, natural light would be beneficial.
Get artificial light: In case of severe SAD, experts often recommend regular exposure to a specially-designed lights that are at least 10 times the intensity of regular household or office lighting. The exposure time to this light can range from 30 minutes to several hours. You need not sit and gape at the light, you can continue doing normal activities.
Catch hold of some Selenium: Lack of Selenium is also responsible for bad mood. Eat Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, grains, and onions, all of which are
rich in selenium.
Cut down on refined carbs: These foods make you feel sluggish, and there’s also an unnecessary craving for stuff with high glycemic index, which in turn leads to a rise in blood sugar level. This adds to physical stress.
Throw a party: Those who love to cook, can try whipping up new dishes in the kitchen and invite close friends over. While food is always a great mood uplifter, by showing some of your culinary skills, you will even get appreciation from your friends that will in turn boost your morale.

With inputs from Dr Shipra  Saklani Mishra, nutritionist Fortis La Femme, and Shilpi Ashta