Overcoming those winter blues

It’s that time of year again, the clocks have gone back and the dreaded dark days and nights have returned. Its time to hibernate and long for the bright clear skies of summer. It’s the season to be bright and jolly, to celebrate and have a good time… right. For many people that should be the case, to relax and enjoy the festive season with their families and friends but that’s not the reality for many people.
We British have always been proud of our stiff upper lip and weather all manors of trials and tribulations. The problem though is that we go through trials and tribulations that are not necessary and can be overcome when we take a step back from the forest and actually see the trees.


The winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) can be overcome, what’s more important is that it is possible without the use of drugs or medication. Phototherapy treatment does make a major difference in improving the quality of people’s lives that suffer from S.A.D. Let’s cover the basics of what it is and how to overcome S.A.D.

What exactly is S.A.D. in layman’s terms?

The symptoms
It can effect people at any age but generally starts between the ages of 18 and 30. It is considered that women suffer from S.A.D. more than men, however the reality is that women don’t have the macho image to protect and are more honest and open in seeking treatment. Now what are the typical symptoms?
• Sleep problems, difficulties in getting out of bed in the morning, finding it hard to stay awake during the day. A general lethargy and lacking energy to carry out a normal daily routine.
• Anxiety, easily irritated, avoidance of social events, not wanting to meet people.
• Dread or fear of shopping during the holiday time period.
• Feelings of depression arise for no apparent reason.
• A craving for carbohydrates and sweets.
• Weight gain

The cause

Light affects the body and the mind. All aspects of health – mental, emotional and physical – are influenced by it. The human psychological system and behaviour has evolved over many of years. At the turn of the century we worked when it was light and stopped when it was dark. Just like the hibernation cycle in animals, we also respond to the decreasing light levels in the winter months. The light is less intense and the days grow shorter and it increases our desire to hibernate. Lack of light creates the increase in the production of Melatonin within the human body, this is the hormone that makes us tired at night and hence creates the desire to sleep longer, increasing the lethargy that we suffer in the winter months. At the same time our Seratonin level is reduced and this is the hormone that affects our mood cycle.
The quick fix to raising our Seratonin level is to buy chocolates, feel good for a few minutes then berate ourselves for putting on weight. More alcohol is consumed during the winter months than at any other time period, is it a co-incidence we have that craving for more carbohydrates. We will try almost any method possible to increase our Seratonin level to avoid depressive levels we reach in the winter months and by doing so create a vicious cycle that we stuck with until the spring returns the following year.
The exposure to a phototherapy unit specifically designed for the treatment of S.A.D. can quite dramatically reverse the process and help sufferers rebound into enjoying a “normal” lifestyle in the winter months.

The Treatment
The phototherapy unit is a device that provides a bright light therapy to the sufferer. The light intensity of a lightbox is approximately 10,000 lux (about 1/10th light output of daylight on a summer’s day) and helps fool the body into thinking it is a spring morning. This helps suppress the production of Melatonin and balance the production of Seratonin. The actual treatment is very simple; all that is required is to be seated in front of the lightbox for between half an hour and an hour every day, in the morning. Allow the light to shine on your face, you do not stare into the light, the light will be picked up in your peripheral vision and as you sit having the treatment read a magazine or a book. One of the greatest benefits of this form of treatment is that it is drug free and is recognised by doctors and psychiatrists as an affective method to treat S.A.D. This results in sufferers leading a normal happy life beating those winter blues.

Important Footnote
When people first learn about light therapy treatment they think that their husband can do a DIY job and build them a unit or they can sit in front of a daylight blue lamp and save themselves some money by not buying a unit. This is like being told by your doctor you need a valve replacement in your heart and you going to your local garage and having them carry out the operation because they work on valves and it would be cheaper and quicker.
Phototherapy units are classified as a medical device and need to comply with EC legislation.
Most S.A.D. sufferers experience the winter blues for almost five months of the year. Think of a phototherapy unit as being an investment not only in financial terms but also in terms of your health, wellbeing and happiness. Most units will last for approx. 9 years although manufacturers will not give a guarantee anywhere close to that time. The lights inside the units need to be replaced every three years because the light intensity decreases with usage.
Even if you were to choose one of the more expensive units and it lasted only five years, your cost would only be less than 50p per day during the winter months over that time period. You cannot buy a cup of coffee or tea that cheap in a restaurant nowadays. We all deserve to enjoy the festive season with our friends and family but more importantly we deserve to have happiness in our own life without having to put it on hold for the winter. So now you know what to ask Santa for and bring on that season of cheer.

Written by Bill Payne Kaizen Lifestyle Ltd.

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