Feeling SAD? Beat the Blues!

No one is quite sure why some folks are troubled by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) while others are not, but we do know what triggers it: The absence of light during winter’s gray days and long nights causes the pineal gland in your brain to turn the hormone serotonin into melatonin. This reduction in serotonin makes the chilly months miserable — and if you don’t face the problem head on, the symptoms can lead to major trouble down the road.

When you don’t have a compelling need to be out and about on a cold winter’s day — heading to work, for example — it’s all too easy to hunker down under a cozy blanket and stay there. Well, don’t do it! It’ll only make the situation worse. Here’s what you should do instead:

Plan a passel of pleasant things that’ll get you out of the house. If at all possible, take your annual vacation in the winter, and head straight for the sun. But don’t stop at that. Make firm commitments with family and friends to attend plays or concerts, go on day or weekend trips, or host birthday parties or game nights. With fun times to look forward to, you’ll breeze through the blue days like a ray of sunshine.

Shake your booty, and lose those dark clouds hanging over your head. If you’re not up to joining winter sports lovers on the slopes or frozen ponds, or even taking brisk walks around your neighborhood, head for an indoor skating rink or the warmth and light of your local fitness center. Getting 30 minutes of exercise each day, in whatever form you like (even dancing in your living room!) will keep your system pumping out endorphins that will help you battle the blahs of a long, cold, dark winter.

Orange essential oil has an almost magical knack for lifting low spirits. So add a few drops of it to your favorite hand and body lotions, or fill a plastic spray bottle with water and a few drops of orange oil, and spritz the air in your home or office. (Whatever you do, never use orange — or any other — essential oil directly on your skin. It can be very irritating.)