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MATTHEW WEST

SOMETHING TO SAY

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It's been a long, cold and snowy winter across the country, which has many Canadians wondering when spring will arrive.

The shift in temperature and darker days of winter can quite often lead to the winter blues, with others feeling the full effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Sean Miller, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association- Central Region says there are many factors that play a role in how we feel during the winter months.

"One of the things about living in North America is that during the winter months, we do not experience a lot of daylight and when we are outside we cover up about 90 percent of our body," Miller expained. "If we are not exposed to sunlight our body does not synthesize vitamin D, which is correlated with healthy levels of serotonin."

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, one of the hundreds in our body that help us to thrive in both our mental and physiological health. If we don't have those right levels of serotonin, it can affect our mood, sleep, appetite and weight.

"Another factor is inactivity. Social Isolation can also play a huge factor in our mental health," said Miller.

Miller encourages people to get into the community and to find groups they can relate to.

"Chances are there is someone else going through the same thing as you and they have the answers that you don't," said Miller.

He says it important to change our attitudes and to embrace winter. He encourages Canadians to find something that makes winter enjoyable, like a fun outdoor activity such as skiing, skating or snowshoeing. Something that allows a person to look at winter as a beautiful change of seasons.

Inactivity also plays a huge role in our mental health during the winter months according to Miller. He says it is important to get out and remain active.

"Even as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day has been shown to improve not only our physical well being, but also our mental health," said Miller

The food we choose to eat can also greatly affect our mental wellness.

"We undervalue the importance of a healthy diet. Our digestive system is connected to our mental health. It houses 80 percent of our immune system. So getting the proper fuel into our system is going to benefit us," Miller explained.

To find out more information on how to keep on top of your mental well being during the winter months, visit cmha.ca