Good Sunday morning, everyone! The Groundhog did not see his shadow and Easter is six weeks away, so we just have to hang on a little longer to get through these dark, cold, dreary days.

Although the winter season starts with holiday cheer, many people feel a little “off” as the season drags on. Some people see themselves grumpier, feeling lazier and unhappy this time of year and those feelings are hard to shake sometimes.

We are governed by circadian rhythms, which is our body’s natural clock that helps regulate important functions including our mood. These rhythms can be thrown off by the winter season. The sky gets bright later in the morning and dark earlier in the evening, but our hectic schedules require us to keep going as if nothing has changed.

This lack of daylight, along with other factors, may affect your mental health.

There are several factors in addition to sunlight that also affect your mood. Your age, diet, sleep routine, exercise and medications will, also.

Exercise is a fantastic outlet for stress. Exercising for 30 minutes daily may help your body release endorphins, which are your natural “happy hormones”. Also, eating healthy fruits and vegetables is especially important in the winter months, with an occasional indulgence to never feel deprived, is key to maintaining your mental health.

But there is a thing called light therapy also. Light therapy is a real thing, but according to the studies I’ve read tanning beds, and the bulbs they use, are not the same thing.

The kind of bright light therapy that is used to treat seasonal depression is different than what is used in a tanning bed. It is necessary for the bright light exposure to pass through your eyes in order to reach your brain, which, of course, would be very dangerous in a tanning bed.

This kind of therapy can be done in your own home and a box can be bought online at a very low price. A light therapy box mimics outdoor light. Generally, the light box should provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible.

But this time of year, it is especially crucial to check on your neighbors and keep in touch with family and friends. Not just for their sake but for yours. Everyone needs a strong support system to be able to call when they need it.

To really stay emotionally and physically strong, year-round, we really do have to stay United.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512

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