SAD Busters:
just in time for the New Year:

Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD in the depressed circles of company that it keeps, is as controversial in its scientific community support as PMS, yet makes us behave in a most unfashionable manner on an annual basis. We know it's there. We're not sure why. We want it stopped. SAD hits hard in the winter months usually starting around Thanksgiving as the days are shortened by Mother Nature and we don't get enough of the sun's rays. Reaching a pinnacle at the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of them all, and continuing until February. Symptoms include hibernation tendencies like over-sleeping, over-eating, as well as over-shopping. (And you thought it was just a holiday spending spree.) Broken down over the course of the 12 monthly cycles for the sake of comparison - SAD is to the whole year's cycle - what PMS is to the month. Unlike PMS, SAD has been known to effect some males as well. The two main SAD busters are light and carbohydrates, which increase the body's production of serotonin, our natural anti-depressant. Here are some ways for you to get more of each:

Winter hater or not - get outside and walk around facing the sun for at least 20 minutes daily. If you live in Seattle where there is no sun and are plagued by this condition - move. Try to get "away" to a sunny vacation spot on or around the winter halfway mark, even for just a long weekend. If you're homebound, force yourself to embrace ice skating, tobogganing and running around in the snow.

Exercise if it kills you. Get yourself to the gym and get your blood pumping. Take long brisk walks all bundled up. Ski, sled, swim (indoors), do as much yoga as you can bear and just get moving. Kick in that serotonin and make your "downs" move "up" a few notches.

Exposing yourself to full spectrum light for two hours each AM and PM will do a body good. Simulated sources are available via mail-order if you can't get the real thing.

Defy the dieter within and heighten your carbohydrate intake. Go ahead, have some Gnocchi for lunch. If you cannot bear not counting calories, learn to love the baked potato. Four o'clock is the most effective time for "carb" therapy. Basic rules to remember are "White pasta is the devil" and "No cheesecake after 7 PM". Other diet and beauty notes for all those low crarb, high protein "Atkins-esque" dieters worried about upcoming bikini time: your body eventually turns to its own supplies of things like fingernails and hair to convert protein into the carbs you need. Stay off carbs long enough - and your luscious locks will suffer. Carbs are our friends. We need them. We need them more, now.

Supplements such as melatonin have been touted as helpful for this cause. Be sure and check with your doctor before self-prescribing any vitamin or mineral therapy. Mood friendly B vitamins and (50-100 mgs of a daily complex) as well as at least 400 mgs of magnesium have been known to help both SAD and PMS, and are a good idea for general daily upkeep.

Laugh and smile often. Practice makes perfect.