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Fending Off Depression Symptoms in Winter

Try this winter game plan to ease symptoms of depression.

Beware If You Crave Sweets and Carbs

Craving carbohydrates -- especially sweets -- is a common symptom of SAD, Rosenthal says.

But the boost in energy you get form these simple carbs is temporary, and the extra sweets can mean you'll put on weight. "I recommend a diet low in simple carbohydrates and high in complex carbohydrates [such as whole grain foods and starchy vegetables such as potatoes] and protein," he says.

Minimize Exposure to Depressing News

Listening to the news 24-7 may depress your mood even more, says Gelenberg. It's stressful, and minimizing stress can improve your mood, he says.

Ration your viewing of potentially bad news. He did that himself, Gelenberg says, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. "One of the things I did was not watch or listen to the news after dinner," he says. "I listened to news before dinner, I was very much keeping myself in the flow of information, but I needed a few hours in the evening to watch funny shows."

Read biographies of famous and inspiring people, suggests Alexander Obolsky, MD, a Chicago psychiatrist and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

Or go see movies about people overcoming adversity, he suggests. It will put life in perspective.

Reach Out and Keep Moving

Easier said than done, acknowledges Josephson. But he encourages his patients with winter depression to try both. "Reach out to others as much as you can," he says. "Do it independently of how you feel. As the sneaker ad says, 'Just do it.'"

"Mood is highly correlated with activity level," says Josephson. "When people get depressed, they tend to withdraw and do less." He encourages those with SAD to return to their previous level of physical activity. When they do, mood improves.

Any boost in activity will help, he says, even walking around the block or getting out to a ball game.

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Reviewed on October 13, 2008

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