This year, winter is hitting early all over the country, especially in the Midwest and South. A longer winter might be tougher for people who tend to experience the winter blahs, the winter blues or whatever you want to call it. For some, the winter blues and the symptoms of depression that creep up have a more formal name: Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.
For those people, symptoms can appear gradually or all at once. The severity of the winter blues can range from mild to serious depression requiring help. For years, science has known the culprit. It’s light. Or rather lack of natural light during winter months.
First described and named in the early 1980s, SAD is linked to a biochemical imbalance that’s prompted by shorter days and less natural light. As the seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological clocks that puts them out of step with their daily rhythm. While the exact mechanisms aren’t known, researchers have shown that bright light is the factor that affects brain chemistry. Given that fact, it’s not surprising that incidences of SAD increase in higher latitudes where days are shorter.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms include fatigue, lack of interest in your regular activities, social withdrawal, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, irritability and even weight gain that comes from craving higher carbohydrate foods.
Now, we’re not trying to diagnose depression or suggest treatment. If you feel like you’re suffering from seasonal depression, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional. They can treat it with a variety of therapies, including light therapy, where patients are exposed to bright lights that are about four times more intense than other indoor lighting.
It’s important to note that even on a cloudy day, natural light is far greater in its intensity than indoor lighting. As a result, it’s a good idea for people who feel mildly out of step to combat the winter blahs with walks outside or by arranging their workspace to get access to more natural light through a window.
But it’s winter, right? The problem isn’t just that it gets dark so much earlier. This winter also appears to be colder than usual with widespread below-zero temperatures and snow throughout the country before Thanksgiving. Given the predictions of a colder winter, a hot tub can be an even more useful tool for taking on winter.
By using your hot tub to full advantage, even winter in Upper Michigan may not seem as daunting. You could be outside in a polar parka and felt-lined boots to get more natural light, or you could be sitting in 102 degree F water, getting a therapeutic massage.
At Caldera Spas, we frequently tout the benefits of a 20-minute renewal soak every day. The warm water and massage help increase circulation, and customers have said they feel more flexible and relaxed. It offers a good opportunity for you to clear your mind and slow down. It also offers either a period of well-deserved solitude or an opportunity to connect with family members without the usual distractions.
But in winter, maybe the 20-minute soak every day offers even greater benefits if you can manage it during daylight hours. That 20 minutes can give you more time outdoors with access to more natural light and fresh air. Also, when you’re cold, your muscles tend to tighten up and become tense. A hot soak can help warm you to your core and loosen those tense muscles.
So the question remains. Will your hot tub help you battle the winter blues? Certainly, everyone will have a different experience with different results. However, you will get access to more natural light and fresh air, and you’ll spend time outdoors soaking in warm water. You’ll also get all the benefits of a daily 20-minute soak.
Suddenly, spring doesn’t seem quite so far away.