How to beat the winter blues

As the nights draw in, millions of us feel gloom setting in. But there are ways to lift your mood in the colder months.

The summer of 2007 has already gone down in history as the wettest since records began. If months of grey skies, rained-off barbecues and ruined trips to the seaside weren't depressing enough, this lack of sun could also be having an effect on the happiness of millions of us. Whether you are a signed up sufferer of seasonal affective disorder – along with more than a million other people in the UK – or simply feel your mood dip as the nights get darker, the consequences of a lack of sun can leave people lethargic, depressed, anxious and more likely to get colds and infections.

There are a number of theories about exactly what causes SAD but the common theme is that light triggers messages to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This controls sleep, mood and appetite so it's thought that the lack of sunlight in winter has an impact of how effectively it manages these functions.

However, there are a number of ways to combat SAD and one of the most effective is simple to use and can have results within three days. Exposure to bright light – phototherapy – helps 80 per cent of SAD sufferers, according to the mental health charity Mind. Ordinary light bulbs aren't strong enough, though, as the average domestic or office light only emits an intensity of 200-500 lux while the minimum dose necessary to treat SAD is 2,500 lux. The easiest way to get this kind of light is by investing in a light box – prices start from about £60 – and sitting in front of it for around one or two hours a day. Boots has seen sales of its range of light boxes soar by 147 per cent this year.

Source - Independent

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