Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression dependent on changing seasons, that occurs in the fall and winter. The Washington Post suggests that 10 million people in the U.S. struggle with SAD. People with the condition may find that the colder temperatures and shorter days seem to zap their energy or lower their moods.
While summer leaves you full of energy and joy, the colder months seem to drag by, to the point that you feel more hopeless and disturbed. You may have accepted these “winter blues” as inevitable, but the truth is there are several things you can do to lift up your mood.
One of the most likely causes of SID is caused by decreased levels of sunlight. Decreased sunlight can decrease of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes and lifts your mood. A lack of sun can also disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, making it harder to get or stay asleep, and this can also have a dramatic effect on your mood and energy levels.
In an effort to counteract the effects of lower sunlight, one treatment that many find effective is a lightbox, which shines an extremely bright light that imitates the sun. By sitting a few feet away for thirty minutes each day, you may start to experience a lift in your mood within a week. There are a variety of different types of lightboxes available, and talking to a doctor can help you determine which one might be the most effective for you.
Generally, light therapy is most effective if done in the morning. You can also get a Dawn Simulator, a special kind of alarm clock that wakes you up with the light of increasing brightness, eventually showering you in full-spectrum light.
Soak up the Sun:
Even without a lightbox, you might find your depression alleviated by opening yourself up to as much sunlight as possible. Open blinds, sit by bright windows, and look for other opportunities to sit by the sun whenever possible. Going on walks outside, especially within two hours of waking up, and again around noon when the sun is at it’s brightest, is an especially helpful way to get some benefits from the sun that is out there. If possible, you might even try taking a vacation, spending a few days in a warmer climate. Just experiencing a few days of relief can be very helpful.
Like other forms of depression, meeting one-on-one with a therapist can be a very effective way to manage and decrease the symptoms of SAD. He or she can help you understand and manage negative thought patterns, and learn ways of managing stress, and discovering healthy ways of coping.
A therapist can help you discover ways to take care of yourself and manage stress, which can help manage your depression. An empathic, supportive ear can also help you feel less alone, boosting your feelings and giving you a sense of support. If it is interfering with your ability to lead the full life you want, SAD should be treated as a serious case of depression and talked about with a mental health professional. Some people with severe SAD take antidepressants.
Whatever therapeutic program you find works for you, be prepared to do it every winter. Gradually, you may become aware of the time in the year when the symptoms start and start treatment earlier. This will help to lessen the intensity of your condition so that your moods can start to stabilize and you can find things to enjoy about your life all year round.