January is often known to be the most depressing month of the year. Between weight gain and mood swings, the depression at the beginning of the year occurs when the daylight begins to diminish, lasts until spring, improves in summer and resumes each winter.
The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. A desire invades us: to stay cloistered at home, under the duvet. It may be a simple reaction to the winter season, or a case of seasonal depression. For people with poor mental health, the onset of cold weather can coincide with the onset of a difficult period marked by bad mood.
“Biologically, the change to winter time implies less exposure to the sun and therefore a reduction in the production of vitamin D, responsible for good brain function”, explains Dr Nadia Qadri, psychiatrist specializing in anxiety disorders. This vitamin D deficiency can make us feel weaker and less cheerful throughout the winter months.
The January blues can also come in the form of a bad cold or the flu that is difficult to fight off.
“In extreme cases, we can feel a total lack of enthusiasm and no longer have any hope for the future,” adds the specialist. That said, most of the time, the January blues are nothing more than a passing blues. Once the first weeks of the month have passed, you get back to your life and your routine.
Lack of natural light triggers feelings of sadness, difficulty leaving bed in the morning, and a difficult lack of motivation. People who are prone to it are particularly sensitive to melatonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps maintain a relevant circadian rhythm. “However, melatonin being activated by the impact of light on the retina, their internal biological clock is found to be out of order, which gradually leads to this form of depression”, underlines the psychiatrist. But with the right tools and a few reflexes, it’s possible to fight the seasonal blues, manage symptoms, and lead happy, productive lives year round.
Vitamin foods on top, sweetness on the flop
Sugar is a natural anxiolytic that boosts during fatigue. Except, of course, it also makes you gain weight. “We therefore focus our intake on what we lack during the critical period: nutrients, vitamins B and C, magnesium. To avoid cravings for sugar, we do not skip meals, especially breakfast ”, explains Dr Yousra Moustafid, nutritionist. We also favor dried vegetables, such as lentils or beans. Taking vitamin D can also help. “Vitamin D also having an impact on morale, ability to concentrate, pay attention and memory, a cure is prescribed at the start of winter,” confirms the nutritionist.
Sport early and in a good mood
In addition to playing its role of well-being ally with good nutrition, physical exercise sets the record straight on our clock. “You have to practice it early, about thirty minutes before sunrise, while jogging, cardio-training or exercise bike. We will increase our body temperature and send signals to the brain: the secretions of the day, ”says Dr Qadri. Getting active half an hour before sunrise takes some effort, but it’s worth the effort.
Finally, fight the urge to hide under the covers by avoiding postponing waking up multiple times and getting up early in the morning. Once you’ve overcome the challenge of the start of the day, make your bed, and leave the room, take a few minutes to drink your coffee and read the news. The temptation to go back to bed will be greatly reduced once you are up and ready to face the day, advises the psychiatrist.
Spotlight on light therapy