Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is, according to Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a recurrent type of depression that makes its presence known from autumn through winter and is triggered by extended nights hours. SAD affects millions of Americans and may be debilitating for those with a biological predisposition to depression or who experience extreme and prolonged stress. The good news is that it isn’t permanent, and there are ways to cope until winter ends and sunny days are here again.
There are many ways to improve your mood, even if you’re feeling down. Specific to SAD, spending time outdoors may be your best and most effective self-treatment. Other ways to help you stay centered and positive include socializing, meditating, and writing in a journal. Plexus explains that there is a connection between the gut and brain that can also impact your mood. Eating foods that encourage the healthy growth of your internal biome is a simple way to keep you feeling your best.
When you’re feeling down and depressed, the last thing you likely want to do is hit the gym, but exercising is one of the quickest ways to send your brain a boost of chemicals that can help you win the internal battle with your emotions. Consider joining a sports team. This will give you a chance to experience physical activity and may even help you meet people that can further take your mind off the negatives. It costs money to become active in sports, and you’ll need to invest in gear and athletic wear, which may be a financial burden. However, it’s an investment in yourself, specifically in your mental health, and you can use these items year-round. Check online reviews before any purchase to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
You may be tempted to reach for a cupcake or cookie for a quick pick-me-up, but take a moment to consider that these sweet treats don’t offer any nutritional value and can even exacerbate depression. Quartz’s Katherine Ellen Foley explains that people who consume more than 67g of sugar every day were more likely to suffer from clinical depression. Sugar leads to a quick spike in insulin and an even faster drop. This puts stress on the body that triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, neither of which are healthy for long periods.
The dark box of depression is a lonely place. Sometimes, talking about your feelings can help you look at your emotions in a new light. If you aren’t comfortable discussing your “winter blues” with friends and family, a licensed therapist can serve as a non-judgmental listening ear.
Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It’s a biochemical imbalance that has a negative impact on the brain and body. If you find that diet, exercise and therapy don’t help, antidepressants may be able to get you over the hump that are the winter months of December, January, and February. One of the most common antidepressants prescribed to treat SAD is bupropion. Drugs.com cautions, however, that this medication is only suitable for people who do not have a seizure or eating disorder and have not used an MAO inhibitor within the last two weeks.
Light therapy is essentially exposure to light that mimics sunshine. You can purchase a light therapy device online or, possibly, through your healthcare provider. Look for a light therapy device with an intensity of at least 2000 lm and a screen size of no less than 12” x 17”. Smaller lightboxes are available, although they may not be as effective.
Seasonal depression or SAD does not have to ruin your winter, the above tips can help get you through the coldest season without the worry.
About the Author
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns.