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For many people an alteration in the seasons can trigger even clinical seasonal affective disorder or a decline of energy.

The illness is due to changes in ambient light, said Dr. Dan Iosifescu, director of the Mount Sinai Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program in New York City.

“A gland in our brain provides a time signal, depending on the number of ambient light, to various elements of the body. Just like a metronome, the gland reacts to signals from light and uses those cues to orchestrate the day/night cycle,” he said in a Mt. Sinai news release. “Ambient light helps our brain ascertain when our bodies have to be active mentally and physically and when our anatomies must rest. That cycle is thrown off when the days get shorter and darker.”

Iosifescu offered the following ideas to help people beat the winter blues:

  • Use lights that are additional. Turn on all the lights that will help you awaken each morning. In more severe instances of depression, a light therapy box, which mimics natural light, can be utilized for 30 minutes daily. Taking a walk outside on a particularly sunny day can also help.
  • Exercise. Working out can help ease depression and improve people’s moods. Get the absolute minimum at least three times each week.
  • Stick to some routine. Don’t oversleep or avoid the outdoors because it’s cold outside. It’s very important to maintain your normal sleep schedule and continue to make plans and attempt new activities.
  • Consider accessories. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids might help battle depression, Iosifescu said. Other over the counter treatments including St. John’s wort may also have antidepressant effects.
  • Speak to your doctor. Seasonal affective disorder may be confused with a more severe case of depression. See with your doctor if you have symptoms that are severe and persist for greater than several weeks.

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