How to Relieve Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

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 at bay.

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 moods.

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 regime

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 sledding.

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.

Other Medications

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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