If the cold, dark winter months make you want to hibernate – you’re not alone.
While it’s not unusual to feel a bit lethargic and even gloomy at this time of year, for some, a change in seasons can bring about a significant shift in their normal feelings and behaviors. If this sounds like you, it’s possible you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
SAD is a type of depression brought on by changes in the seasons. Symptoms can include low energy, lack of interest in your usual activities, sluggishness, difficulty concentrating and disrupted sleep.
Although it’s not fully understood, it’s possible that the mood fluctuations and other changes associated with SAD may be partly due to the body’s increased production of melatonin and decreased production of serotonin at this time of year.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. During the darker months, the body makes more melatonin which can cause daytime sleepiness. Less sunlight can also contribute to a dip in the amount of serotonin your body produces. This neurotransmitter helps produce feelings of well-being. When there’s less of it, it’s possible that your mood may dip too.
If you’d like to take some preventative action to help ward off SAD symptoms, yoga is a great place to start.
A recent study from the Harvard School of Medicine shows that exercise is an effective way to help prevent signs of SAD. According to the study, four hours of exercise per week helped decrease participants’ symptoms as well as reduced future episodes of SAD.
There is also evidence that yoga boosts serotonin levels, helping to increase feelings of well–being which can be vulnerable at this time of year.
At Exhale, we think yoga is an ideal wintertime exercise because it allows you to move your body in a warm, nurturing environment. To help get everyone to the mat, we offer a range of classes to suit all levels of experience and fitness.
For example, if you’re looking for a calm, rejuvenating practice, we have restorative, yin and yoga nidra classes, all of which will help you unwind, relax and help ease symptoms of SAD. If you’re in the mood for something more challenging, we offer vinyasa flow class for all levels. Moving your body in a more vigorous way will jump start your serotonin levels to help prevent the blues that can arise at this time of year.
Time To Meditate
Feelings of depression can also be eased with meditation. This healing practice helps retrain your brain to enable you to respond to situations in a less stress– and anxiety-inducing way, according to another recent study from researchers at Harvard.
Meditation teaches us how to notice our feelings without getting wrapped up in them, so the practice can be an effective tool for those who are suffering from SAD or its symptoms.
The winter months are a great opportunity to begin or return to a meditation practice. At Exhale, we’ve curated a team of expert meditation teachers and guides so you can sample many styles and find a time that suits your schedule.
Adding yoga or meditation to your daily schedule can help you embrace seasonal change, rather than succumbing to the negative effects it can sometimes have on the mind and body.
Although it’s common to experience changes to your normal patterns when the days are shorter, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor if you’re having trouble coping or your symptoms become debilitating. For more information on mental health services in Shelton, visit the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.