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Shedding light on Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Nowadays we hear more and more about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and its recognition has given a scientific explanation for what we more commonly know as the 'winter blues'. And let's be honest, January can be a bleak month. Festive fun is a distant memory, days are short, the weather bites and New Year’s resolutions are becoming hard to stick to, so it's understandable that many of us feel down and lacklustre. And with the current cold snap set to last a while, the limited sunlight can take its toll on our energy levels and moods.


About 4-6% of people get SAD yet until recent years it was practically unheard of. SAD is a mood disorder that strikes with depressive symptoms. It is caused by a biochemical imbalance due to the lack of sunlight in the winter months in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Some suffer from very mild forms while for others it can be a really dismal time of year. The disorder causes most people to feel weary and can affect sleep patterns – making it hard to get up in the morning or causing you to oversleep. It may also take its toll on your diet giving you a craving for sugary food and carbohydrates which in turn can play havoc with weight control. Difficulty concentrating, avoidance of social situations and decreased sex drive are also associated with the disorder. So – aside from eating a donut or curling up on the sofa – what can you do to cheer yourself up?

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Light therapy and dawn simulation are popular ways to brighten moods as the light they emit is energising. They help make the waking-up process a little less painful! Your diet can also help. Ali Cullen, nutritional therapist at A.Vogel, says: "Food plays an important role in helping you feel better and lighten your mood. If you're eating more sweet foods, your blood sugar levels are constantly rising and falling which may leave you feeling irritated and low on energy."She recommends nuts, seeds and wholegrains which contain magnesium and are good for your nervous system, along with green leafy vegetables which are packed with B vitamins. Vitamin-D supplements and herbal remedies are family-friendly and easy to include in your daily routine – set a time in the morning to take your supplements, or enjoy a herbal tea at elevenses.Exercise and a balanced diet are also proven to banish sluggishness and awaken weary souls – cheer up with our gallery of the best ways to beat the winter blues.

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