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HEALTHBEAT 4: Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Happy light

DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. (KTIV) -- Winter means shorter days with not a lot of sunlight. It's something we come to expect here in the midwest, leading to what's known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short.

It's a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.

"I think we can all agree we've all kind of experienced this before where you've kind of had the winter blues because it's cold outside, you're not getting out as often," said Allison Owings, a CNOS Nurse Practitioner.

Providing us with the "feel good" chemicals in the body. That's what CNOS Nurse Practitioner Allison Owings said sunlight does for us.

"There's a definite chemical interaction and imbalance that's happening in the brain," said Owings. "We really rely on that sunlight and that warm kind of temperature to bring our mood up."

Without it, we feel those "winter blues" and it doesn't just affect your mental state, it can lead to physical effects as well.

"When somebody's mood is down and they're just not feeling great, their headaches or their neuropathic pain, their other conditions are affected in a negative way," said Owings.

So how do you treat it? One option is a Happy Light: a bright white light, giving off 10,000 LUX.

"You can set it in the morning to kind of gradually wake you up like it would be like a sunrise or you can set it next to you when you are doing something, watching tv, reading a book," said Owings. "Let that bright light hit you for an hour, a couple of minutes, a half-hour. Whatever you have throughout the day, a couple of times throughout the day."

Helping to promote those "feel good" chemicals in the body, boosting your mood.

Owings said symptoms can often last into March or April, but it's important to remember that they are only temporary. It's best to talk with your doctor though to see how you might be feeling and to check your mental health.

Michaela Feldmann

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