Feeling Blue? Winter May Be to Blame

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a recurring type of depression linked to the change of seasons, is believed to affect as many as one in 10 people in Vermont, said Kelly Rohan, a faculty member in the University of Vermont psychology department who studies SAD.

"This tends to make us more lethargic; not have a lot of energy," Rohan said, describing common signs of SAD. "One may crave carbohydrates, eat more of them, sleep a little bit more, socialize less."

Rohan said during this winter, which has brought many mercilessly cold days and a lot of snow, she has heard some faculty, staff, and students discussing how they have been feeling down.

"Find ways to engage and enjoy winter," she said, explaining a prime strategy to feel better in the dark and cold days of winter. "Take a walk. Schedule social activities: meet that friend for lunch; see that movie you’ve been wanting to see. Whatever’s enjoyable, find a way to do it in the winter."

Rohan said as many as one in four people may suffer from a less severe form of seasonal depression, known generally as the winter blues. She noted a prime difference between the two is the level to which daily activities are impacted. With the milder winter blues, symptoms like fatigue and pervasive sadness are not as serious as they are with SAD, Rohan explained.

Rohan told New England Cable News that longer days do help the way people experiencing SAD feel. Right now, each day is more than two minutes longer than the one before.

Rohan strongly recommends against self-diagnosis and treatment, according to the website of her research team.

Vermonters NECN met on a cold and gray Monday were finding ways to brighten their moods.

At the UVM greenhouses on campus, freshman Isabel Rojas was checking out a pineapple plant, colorful flowers, cacti, and tropical plants.

“It just really cheered me up,” Rojas said of her stop into the greenhouses. "You need to see green in your life. You definitely do. It keeps you hopeful and looking forward to the summer and pushing through"

And at the new South End SurfSet (http://www.southendstudiovt.com/adult-classes/) in Burlington, a group was taking a friendly and upbeat workout class on indoor surfboards that test the body’s balance and core region. The exercise classes take place while tropical scenes of surfing and exotic sights play on a big video wall.

"Living in Vermont, I think it's really important to shake things up," said Roxanne Scully, the owner of South End SurfSet. "It just gives the sense to the person leaving here that, 'Wow. I just did get away for a tropical vacation, even if it's just for an hour!'" 

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