Somewhere in the ballpark of 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), also commonly called winter blues. Those who experience S.A.D. are. . . well. . . sad. And you can paint the sadness on a spectrum — from mild malaise to severe depression. For those who live north of a virtual line going from DC to San Jose, winter blues is a real thing.
What’s most fascinating is that we can look at a general physiological and mood disorder such as S.A.D., and actually pinpoint the root of the problem. In this case, a deficiency in vitamin D is the culprit.
It makes sense then that the disorder reaches something of a fever-pitch during the doldrums of winter, when sunny days are few and far between. Unlike some skin-to-UV relationships, the science of how S.A.D. effects the human mind and body is fairly straightforward: Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays trigger the body into producing vitamin D. And vitamin D then jump-starts the genes that release both serotonin and dopamine — two neurotransmitters that function much like natural antidepressants.
In other words, when we experience vitamin D deficiency during winter, our bodies are unable to produce the healthy chemicals that bring happiness and a positive state of mind. And happiness and positivity are what makes for a life worth living.
So if you or someone you know suffers with S.A.D., you’ll be glad to know there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel. . . literally. You see, if you’re unable to get sufficient sun exposure during the winter especially if you live in the Northern part of the US, you can always purchase a light-therapy lamp. A quality light-therapy lamp mimics the sun’s UVB rays and actually tricks your body into producing vitamin D, without breaking the bank. Of course, in more severe cases of S.A.D., it’s important to seek professional medical advice.
And always remember that, wherever you are, a mindful sun exposure is crucial to capture the health benefits of the sun while avoiding the damages. Even still, if that blazing ball of gas refuses to show its face, know that there are alternative methods of getting that essential sunshine vitamin when it matters the most.
In an upcoming article, we’ll address the Vitamin D supplementation. Stay tuned and always remember to be mindful in the sun.
Resource: A useful guide to choose a light-therapy box, by Mayo Clinic