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SAD? Need some sunshine in your world?

February may bring the love of Saint Valentine but does not always bring the sunshine and warmth that we crave in the dark winter months.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK according to the NHS and can affect people of all ages.

Symptoms may include:

  • a loss of interest or enjoyment in normal everyday activities.

  • a persistent low mood

  • irritability

  • sleeping longer and trouble getting up in the morning

  • difficulty concentrating

  • feelings of despair, guilt or lack of self-worth

  • lethargy and sleepiness during the day

  • craving carbohydrates

  • decreased sex drive

The severity of the symptoms vary from person to person and can be quite debilitating for many. So what causes it and how do you combat SAD?

Although there is still so much research to be done to fully understood this affliction there is clear evidence that the lack of sunlight during the winter months contributes to the condition.

The lack of sunlight affects the hypothalamus which is the part of the brain responsible for releasing hormones, controlling appetite, sexual behaviour, emotional responses, regulating body temperature and maintaining daily physiological cycles.

Two crucial hormones which are important in this condition are melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin makes you sleepy and in the winter months the hypothalamus may produce more of this sleep-inducing hormone in susceptible people. The second hormone, serotonin, affects your mood, appetite and sleep. Lower seratonin levels are linked with low mood and depression.

The lack of sunshine affects the body's circadian rhythm - your natural body clock which wakes you in the morning and sends you to sleep at night. It is disturbed by the lack of sunshine and becomes disregulated.

However the winter months affect you personally, a little sunshine warms your heart but for those who suffer from SAD, a little sunshine is a life saver. I have bought a SAD lamp which helps me to wake up on the dark winter months when the lack of natural sunlight tells my body to continue sleepng when the alarm goes off in the morning. Mixed signals do not help me to jump out of bed all happy and excited for the day! I don't think I would do well working night shifts! I have noticed a huge improvement in my mood since the SAD lamp has entered my life!

I never understood why I had so much more energy in the summer as opposed to the winter months but now I am beginning to see how my emotions and body are affected by the natural world - it's time to take action.

Balancing both of these hormones is essential in order for us to get good quality sleep. Sleep is key to healing - physically and mentally. Losing out on sleep through disturbed circadian patterns and through excessive levels of these hormones, results in negative side effects. Understanding what is happening to us, and why, is half the battle won.

A SAD lamp to wake you, or to brighten your day as you work or read, along with a daily physical activity will help your body to combat SAD. The endorphins and dopamine released by exercise automatically lifts your mood. Adding journalling and expressing gratitude to this daily routine will help lift your mental mood and move you towards positivity and away from the vicious circle of negative thinking- negative actions - negative mood - on repeat. Break the cycle and let the sunshine back in.

The symptoms described above could be indicative of depression or SAD. None of these need to define you. You do not need to surrender and accept it as your fate. You control your mind, your control your thoughts, you control your actions. If nothing changes, nothing changes. So make a change. Do something positive to get that sunshine into your life. A trip to the Caribbean may be wonderful (but a dream to most of us!) but it is also a temporary solution to a problem which waits for you back in the airport upon your return. Take control now. Start taking small steps which will become the long term actions needed to take back your happiness and positivity, your energy and motivation, your great sleep and mental health.

Talking things through with me at Life Unlimited Hypnotherapy could help you to identify specific areas you are struggling with, repetitive thinking patterns or behaviours that you would like to change. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy can allow you to find, instil and affirm your positive behaviours, thinking patterns and help you to consistently succeed.

You can, of course, wait for the spring or summer to bring you the sunshine, but do you want to wait for happiness or take action now and be happy now?

Contact me now and let's brighten every day.

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