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Beat the winter blues: Zap seasonal depression before it starts

Oct 12, 2011, 2:53 p.m.

The changing seasons mean shorter days and less sunlight, which can lead to a medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Typically known as the "winter blues," symptoms of SAD include avoiding social activities, altered sleeping patterns (sleeping too much or not enough), and chronic fatigue. Stop seasonal depression before it starts with these easy tips.

Eat bright, fresh foods. When we feel depressed, we load up on comfort foods that are heavy on carbs and fat. Unfortunately, these foods lead to lethargy and weight gain, exacerbating SAD symptoms. Opt instead for in-season fruits and vegetables, like grapefruit, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. These nutritional powerhouses will enhance your immune system and naturally fight the winter blues.

Take Vitamin D supplements. During the winter, we naturally get less Vitamin D from sunlight, which can decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems. Daily supplements can help.

Brighten your room with a light box. Fluorescent light boxes mimic the sun (minus those harmful UV rays), improving mood and boosting energy levels. For moderate to severe cases of SAD, these boxes are a must.

Socialize. When it’s snowing outside and the winds are blowing, the last thing you want to do is battle the elements to meet friends. Resisting the urge to stay home, however, is essential to your emotional and mental health. Spending time with your friends and loved ones naturally enhances your mood and stimulates the release of endorphins—laughter truly is the best medicine.

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