Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs in people around fall and winter.
Occasionally, people feel symptoms of SAD during the spring or even in the
summer. This disorder, just like other forms of depression, leave people
feeling sad, moody and unable to shake off their feelings of depression.
Instead of shaking your funky feelings off as the "winter blues," you
can take proactive steps to improve your mood and keep the symptoms of your SAD
Light Therapy (Phototherapy)
When you undergo light therapy,
you are instructed to set up a specially designed light box and sit a few feet
away from it. You may be able to receive phototherapy from your regular mental
health professional, or you may have the opportunity to purchase a light box
for personal use at home.
When you sit in front of the
specially designed light box, you are exposed to light that mimics light from
the outdoors. Because most people suffer from a significant loss in sunlight
exposure during the winter time, vitamin D deficiency occurs more frequently
which can cause a drop in mood. Specialists believe that exposure to light from
light boxes can alter chemical responses in the brain to produce heightened
Keep your spaces well-lit
Especially when the days become
shorter and colder, you may find it helpful to keep your rooms well-lit during
the day and night. This may be as simple as opening blinds or turning on a few
extra lights when you enter a room. This is helpful when days are overcast and
cold; keeping yourself surrounded by light during the day will keep you more
energized and will help keep your circadian rhythm in sync.
Maintain a regular exercise
The idea of going outside on a
cold day may not be appealing to most people, but keeping yourself physically
fit and healthy may help improve your mood overall. This can be done easily in
the home or outdoors. You might try finding a new exercise video you can do
when it's too cold to go outside, or you could get your daily exercise by
cleaning and maintaining your home.
For the brave, outdoor sports can
be enjoyable and provide your body a good amount of healthy exercise and fresh
air. Try cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snow-shoeing, ice skating or
Herbal remedies and supplements
There are several mood-enhancing
supplements that may help relieve your SAD symptoms. These include St. John's
Wort, which is best for people with mild to moderate depression, SAMe, which is
a synthetic chemical compound commonly prescribed in Europe to treat depressive
symptoms, and melatonin, which is another synthetically manufactured chemical
compound thought to regulate mood and sleep patterns.
You may also find it helpful to
consume foods or vitamin supplements that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. In some
studies, Omega-3 fatty acids have been show to reduce signs and symptoms of
depression. You can find Omega-3 supplements, or you can consume fatty,
cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.
For severe cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD where
depression is moderate to severe, your mental health provider may prescribe
anti-depressants to help improve your mood. When deciding whether to take
anti-depressants or not, talk clearly and openly with your provider about your
symptoms and depressive moods so he or she can determine what type of treatment
is best for you.
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