How to beat the winter blues

Posted at 6:51 PM, Nov 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-17 20:51:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- If winter bums you out, you’re not alone.

More than half a million Americans experience what's called Seasonal Affective Disorder and Utahns are especially susceptible. The shorter days of winter can give you the blues.

"The amount of light that you have in a day as it gets winter gets less and less, and that's when we start to see people get more and more depressed," said Jason Hunziker, staff psychiatrist at the University of Utah.

Hunziker said winter depression is believed to be related to decreased sunlight, which starts in late fall and runs throughout the winter months.

"Here in Utah with our inversions and our fog and our shorter days and we're just far enough away from the equator that it's really eminent in this valley," Hunziker said.

The National Mental Health Disorders Association reports that 10-20 percent of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder and a large majority may not even know it.

"I don't think people know about it because I think people just say, ‘this is what happens to me in the winter -- I don't like the cold I don't like the snow it gets dark the holidays are hectic this just happens,’” Hunziker said.

Symptoms of the disorder include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal and weight gain.

"If those symptoms get bad enough that you're staying in bed longer and you're not eating you're avoiding doing all those things with your families and it feels like everything is just blah you need to get up and go get that fixed,” Hunziker said.

Several steps to boost your mood include:

-Checking your vitamin d levels and increase your omega 3 intake

-Exercising consistently


-Antidepressant medications

-Light therapy

"Most physicians will suggest you get a light box and depending on what you get it's 15 minutes to hour and half a day but those thing really seem to help for a large portion of society," Hunziker said.

Hunsiker said if you start to have symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder to see your doctor before things get worse.