When the days get short, dark, dreary and cold, it can definitely affect our mood.

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It’s definitely that time of the year again when the days get short, dark, dreary and cold. If that weren't bad enough, this type of weather change can also affect our mood. (Besides leaving you chilled, this type of weather change can also affect your mood.) For example, do you find yourself feeling a little more lethargic, hungry and down than usual? If the answer is "yes," don’t fret; you certainly have company. 

You may be experiencing a very common condition called the winter blues. The winter blues, and their more serious counterpart, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), tend to affect four times as many women than men. The condition is a mild form of depression brought on by a decrease in the amount of sunlight. It starts to impact people during the fall, lasts throughout the winter, and then starts to subside during the spring.

According to the research, the winter blues are more often than not caused by unstable melatonin and serotonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone produced during sleep, and serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, hunger and sleep. Although the winter blues are not as severe as some long-term depressions, the disorder can still affect the way a person thinks, reacts and deals with his or her everyday life. Drinking heavily, overeating, isolating yourself and lack of exercise only increase the intensity of the winter blues.

So, how do you know if you have this condition? If you suffer from two or more of the following symptoms, you’re probably at risk:

  • Increased feelings of exhaustion and sluggishness
  • Difficulty thinking creatively and concentrating, compared to the summer months
  • Trouble waking up in the mornings, especially as the days get shorter
  • Wrongly blaming oneself when things go wrong
  • Problems with performing tasks that usually seem easy and enjoyable.

But here's the good news: You can definitely take control and do things to brighten up your mood. Perhaps the best place to start is with your perception. Focus on what’s positive and right around you. See each day as having the potential to be a good one. This emotional shift can add to an instant "feel good" state of mind. Let the sun shine in … lift those blinds and enjoy the sunlight while you can. Vacation in the Caribbean. Connect with positive people. Do volunteer work. Use that extra indoor time to clean out your clutter and simplify your surroundings. Take care of yourself by getting a massage, exercising regularly and eating sensibly. 

For the more severe forms of winter blues, speak to your physician about other options like anti-depressant medication, light box treatment and other forms of therapy. Finally, remember that the winter blues are only temporary. Those sunny days are right around the corner and closer than they feel!