Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the winter blues?!? Do you or someone you know get depressed in the colder months of year? If you do are you definitely not alone. In fact it is estimated that nearly 10 million Americans are affected by season depression every year. And another 10-20% of people may have a very mild form of the condition. But what is it and how can we deal with the condition? Let’s take a look.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to the changes of seasons. SAD generally begins and ends at the same time every year and is usually seen in the fall and winter months of year. The only real different between depression and SAD is when it happens. The symptoms are very similar. Someone experiencing SAD usually present with typical signs of depression like loss of interest, sadness, mood swings, fatigue and changes in sleep patterns as well as change of appetite and social isolation.
Here are five scientifically proven ways to help lift your spirits and ease the cold weather doldrums.
1. Brighten your environment. Part of the reason we experience SAD is due to lack of light and earlier sunsets. Fewer hours of daylight can be treated by sitting next to an artificial or light box for at least 30 min a day. The use of an artificial light can actually be as effective as antidepressants. You can also try opening blinds and curtains, and keeping them open longer, sitting near open windows during the day or trimming back any trees or bushes that may be blocking sunlights entrance into the home. It is important to make note of the fact that many who are suffering from chronic Illness are low on Vitamin D due to lack of exposure to the sun. Low vitamin d can have symptoms similar to depression.
2. Move your body. In 2005 Harvard completed a study that found if a person walks for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week they can improve the symptoms of depression. If a person is able to exercise under bright lights it can further improve symptoms of depression, moreso than exercising under normal lights.
3. Turn on music. A study done in 2013 by the University of Missouri showed that a person could improve their short and long term moods significantly.
4. Plan a getaway. A research study done in 2010 looked at the link between vacations and the level of happiness. They found that planning a vacation gives a person something to look forward to and significantly increases a person’s overall happiness.
5. Spend some time outdoors. As crazy as it sounds getting some time in outside has many benefitt. Not only will it reduce SAD symptoms, it can also improve focus, lower stress levels and increase levels of vitamin d. While it may not be your first choice of things to do in the winter months the positives way outweigh the negatives.