How to Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The Effects of Sun Deprivation

Walking the sunlit trails in Earl Bales Park in Toronto is a good antidote to winter sun deprivation
After getting through the -25 C (-13 F) cold spell last week, conversation among a few of us who live in the world's northern hemisphere turned to SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The effects of sun deprivation in the long winter months can include:
  • loss of energy
  • decreased desire to socialize
  • short-term memory loss
  • fatigue
  • depression
We don't always need to read an article to know that our energy levels are waning annually around mid February to early March. But Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real for people who experience prolonged depression every winter. Approximately 2-3% of Canadians experience the full effects of SAD, and 15% experience a milder form of it. It is estimated by NHS Choices that SAD affects about 2 million people in the UK, and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe. According to Psych Central, approximately half a million Americans are affected by SAD.

Sun deprivation is also associated with Vitamin D deficiency and declined serotonin levels. Hormonal Fitness explains that the sun is the main stimulus for serotonin production as well as critical for the production of Vitamin D. It describes further that "discoveries have been made recently about the effects of vitamin D and the consequences of deficiency - particularly in connection with immunity, osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. An article at even suggests that "lack of sunlight probably kills many thousands more people in this country and others at similar latitudes than skin cancer."

How is SAD Treated?

Skiing in the middle of the city at Earl Bales Park ski hill in Toronto

Treatment for SAD usually includes medication or light therapy. But the Tech Times offers great solutions to dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder and the winter blues that are more natural. Natural remedies that avoid prescriptions or the use of light boxes are:

  • taking advantage of the natural light whenever and wherever possible
  • getting regular exercise
  • opening up the blinds during daylight hours
  • going out for a walk during the day
  • doing yoga
  • embracing the snow and enjoying it

Enjoying Winter

One of the best perspectives on how we really enjoy winter in Canada is a great documentary entitled Life Below Zero.

But stepping out to your local city parks in winter can offer some very interesting surprises. On Family Day 2015 I discovered an uptown urban ski hill that is a mere 20-minute walk from our home. This facility rents ski equipment and has a canteen. It may not be challenging enough for the advanced skier and, while it's true that skiing down it only takes a minute or two, it's a great way to enjoy the city sun in winter months.


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