With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays behind us and the cold reality settling in of three months of winter ahead, some Iowans may find themselves feeling like a dark cloud is looming overhead.

Annette Shipley, a program therapist for seniors at Van Diest Medical Center in Webster City, says we all go through physiological changes when we start having less sunlight in our days.

“When we have the lack of sunlight, sunlight gives us vitamin D, a very important nutrient in our body that helps give us energy, makes us feel good,” Shipley says. “When we don’t get outside in those winter months, we’re going to feel a lot of what’s called the winter blues.”

If those blues last more than a few days, it may be Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Shipley says there’s a long list of potential symptoms.

Shipley says, “If you’re feeling depressed most of the day nearly every day, if you’re losing interest in your activities you once enjoyed, if you have low energy, having problems with sleeping, experiencing changes in your appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, having difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless or worthless or guilty.”

About five-percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40-percent of the year. Also, it’s more common among women than men.

“A lot of those symptoms are related to depression as well,” Shipley says. “Because of SAD, it only happens during the changing of the seasons, so that’s how we know the difference between the two.”

There are things you can do to boost your mood, including buying a special light that’s very bright and sitting under it — what’s called light therapy. You can also add foods to your diet that are rich in Vitamin B-12, like beef and other protein-rich foods, and increase your intake of food with Omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, and raise your Vitamin D-3 intake.

One other easy potential solution — get more sunlight.

Radio Iowa