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5 Tips to Conquer Your Winter Blues Now!

March 10, 2009 | 62,888 views

Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) -- sometimes known as the winter blues?  Here’s how you can beat those blues and keep them away during the cold months of winter.

The fact that treatments such as sunlight and natural light therapy can help to rid you of depression is just another example of the fact that, when you take the proper approach to your health and provide your body with all that it needs, drugs are rarely, if ever, necessary.

Vitamin D Dose Recommendations
Age Dosage
Below 5 35 units per pound per day
Age 5 - 10 2500 units
Age 18 - 30 5000 units
Pregnant Women 5000 units
There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

The lack of available daylight during the winter can trigger feelings of depression, lethargy, fatigue and other problems. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD -- a type of depression – is also commonly referred to as the winter blues.  Most of you reading this have suffered through a long cold and bleak winter and many of you are likely feeling the effects of SAD.

Because it’s a type of depression, there are a few basic foundational strategies and choices you can make that will greatly help release you from its grip, independent of other strategies that are helpful to prevent and/or treat SAD specifically. 

Please understand that antidepressant drugs will never resolve the underlying problems causing your seasonal depression. They can, however, cause serious, including fatal side effects that are completely unnecessary if only you know how to remedy the real problem – lack of exposure to sunlight!

General Strategies to Prevent and Heal Depression 

Three strategies that are essential any time you’re dealing with any type of depression are: 

  1. Consume high quality animal-based omega-3 fats – Your brain consists of about 60 percent fat; DHA specifically, so you need a constant input of essential omega-3 fats for your brain to work properly. The most beneficial source I know of is krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil

  2. Exercise – In addition to a large number of other health benefits, physical exercise is one of the most potent strategies you can employ to prevent and treat all kinds of depression.
  3. Abstain from sugar – Sugar (and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is the number one source of calories in the U.S. in the form of soda) has a very  detrimental impact on your brain function. One great book that I highly recommend is called The Sugar Blues, written by William Dufty more than 30 years ago, which delves into this topic in great detail.  

Specific Strategies for Preventing and Treating SAD 

For the prevention and treatment of seasonal affective disorder, specifically, an adequate amount of sunshine is essential. The ideal option would be to relocate to a tropical or subtropical environment during winter months, but this is unfortunately not a viable option for most of us.

Your second best option is to use high quality artificial lighting to ease your symptoms. Light therapy is an effective treatment option for many people with SAD. 

Unfortunately, most people use incandescent lighting in their homes. This is NOT a high quality light, and is not recommended, especially if you suffer from the winter blues. 

Ideally, you’ll want to use only high quality full spectrum light bulbs in your home and workspace. This is the type of lighting I personally use at home and in my office. 

Full-spectrum lighting is one of the most cost-effective ways to treat the winter blues, and in my experience, patients tend to feel a profound increase in energy and improvement in mood and sense of well-being quite quickly – oftentimes within two to three days after exposure.

There’s some confusion on this issue, but currently, full spectrum light bulbs are only available as fluorescent bulbs. There are some LED’s available – and in time they will likely become the standard – but at the present time full spectrum LED’s are simply not cost effective for the majority of us.  

Addressing the Safety Concerns About Full Spectrum Fluorescent Bulbs 

There are some perceived problems with fluorescent full spectrum light bulbs, as they do contain a small amount of mercury, and they do emit small amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMF).  

Mercury Exposure from CFL Bulbs –Mercury is a neurological toxin, and clearly something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. However, please understand that full spectrum bulbs pose no health hazard whatsoever as long as they are not broken.

Naturally, if you accidentally break one, you will have the challenge of cleaning it up properly to protect yourself and your family from exposure. For instructions on what to do if you were to break a bulb, please review, print out, and keep this EnergyStar fact sheet handy.

But perhaps the MOST significant issue many people fail to appreciate is that because CFL bulbs reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 percent, they also vastly reduce coal burning, which accounts for 55 percent of the energy production in the U.S.

Coal burning currently deposits 104 METRIC TONS of mercury into the air, each and every year. So by reducing the total energy consumption with these bulbs, the overall environmental mercury burden is significantly lowered.

Even if ALL CFL light bulbs sold during the year were broken and sent to a landfill instead of being recycled, they would release 0.13 metric tons of mercury into the environment, according to EnergyStar calculations.

Folks, that is a 1,000 FOLD difference, even in a worst case scenario.

Clearly, when you use these bulbs you will LOWER environmental mercury, and if you are cautious and responsible and return the bulbs to recycling centers like Home Depot, you can make that difference even more dramatic.

EMF Exposure from CFL Bulbs -- Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs do generate small amounts of electromagnetic fields, however these EMFs dissipate, much like the EMF from cell phones, within a few feet.  

Essentially, my recommendation for “safe lamp use” would be the same as that for cell phones: use the speaker phone or an air tube headset, and keep your cell phone as far away from your body as possible. As long as you’re not sitting with a light bulb directly by your head, the risk to your health from these EMFs will be minimal to non-existent.

So, as you can see, these two primary concerns are really non-issues if you look at it more globally.

I hope you’ll find this information helpful, as it is important to have some simple and practical strategies to address common challenges like the winter blues, which strikes so many each and every year.

I firmly believe that when you implement the recommendations above, especially the high quality full-spectrum lights, you’ll see a dramatic improvement and be really pleased with the benefits.

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