As the days get shorter and the temperatures decrease, it isn’t uncommon to find yourself feeling down during these winter months. Have you ever wondered why? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be the source of your ill-timed gloom. SAD is a form of depression that is provoked by seasonal change, typically experienced in the winter. As the hours of daylight diminish, many begin to feel sluggish and socially withdrawn, and tend to eat more and sleep less. But the good thing is that SAD is treatable, and there are many ways to make yourself feel better until spring comes around.
1. Dawn simulators
As you may know, bright light in the morning is powerful and effective when it comes to fighting seasonal depression. Many people struggle with being energized after waking up to the dark. So, toss your alarm clock and opt for a dawn simulator. A dawn simulator allows you to wake up naturally to the gradual glow of the lamp or “morning sunshine”. Be sure to get one that uses full-spectrum light, as it simulates natural light most accurately.
2. Get outside
Getting as much natural light as possible is essential in fighting seasonal depression. Even on a cloudy day, 15-30 minutes of exposure to outdoor light may be enough to boost your mood. Create a schedule to maintain a consistent exposure to daylight. For example, you could take a walk after breakfast and walk home from work every other day. There’s no doubt that the vitamin D will boost your energy.
3. Light therapy
If you know you won’t be able to find the time to go outside, consider light therapy. During light therapy, you sit or work in front of a light therapy box, which emits a bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. The standard course is 30 minutes of fluorescent soft-white light per day at 10,000 lux. Test it out during different times of the day to see when it is most effective. You may find that your body is most responsive at night rather than in the morning or vice versa.
Regular exercise is a common prescription to ease the symptoms of depression. There is evidence that physical activity—especially aerobic exercises—not only boosts your serotonin levels (contributes to feelings of happiness), but also maintains those high levels hours after a workout. In addition, there is a physical benefit from staying active. Try exercises such as walking, running, or yoga to improve your mind and body wellness.
5. Eat a balanced diet
Of course, eating a balanced diet is important in everyday life in general. However, a recent study (University College London) finds that eating specifically fish and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of depression. It is common for those suffering from SAD to have carb cravings, but it is important not to self-medicate by eating carbohydrate-rich or processed foods. Fight SAD and get your omega-3s and leafy greens.
Seasonal Affective Disorder may be something that comes inevitably, but it is always treatable!
If you or someone you know has SAD, be aware that there are simple ways to get help.