When the temperatures plummet and it’s dark by 5:00 p.m. it’s no wonder so many people suffer from something called Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D.
This type of seasonal depression is triggered by less frequent exposure to sunlight due to shorter days and gray skies, cold weather that makes you want to bundle up on the couch, and other parts of winter that leave you feeling down. For some people, the effects can be downright debilitating. Some common signs and symptoms include:
If you suffer from S.A.D. you might feel there’s no hope until spring arrives. Don’t give up! Here four ways to make dealing with winter a bit easier, and they come with a seal of approval from the National Institute of Mental Health. With some trial and error you might even stumble on a combination of solutions that helps you live happier all year long.
Light therapy has been around since the 1980s, and many S.A.D. sufferers have found it incredibly effective. The goal is to replace “lost” sunshine with daily exposure to cool-white fluorescent lighting.
Sit in front of a light box for 20 to 60 minutes shortly after you wake up. This guide from Light Therapy Products shows how to choose a light box, and this list of Amazon best sellers will help you find the best model for your needs.
Also make a point of getting outside as often as possible, even if it’s for a brisk walk around the office building during lunch. Exposure to natural sunlight can make a big difference.
For severe seasonal affective disorder, schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss options. He or she might suggest Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which can dramatically reduce symptoms, especially when combined with therapy.
In addition to medication, your doctor might suggest psychotherapy. That might sound drastic, but it can be very effective. You’ll discover why winter has such an intense impact on your well-being and learn healthy ways to cope with the feelings that surface.
The jury is still out on how much vitamin D supplements help reduce the impact of S.A.D. Studies have shown some people experiencing seasonal affective disorder have low levels of vitamin D. Other research suggests these supplements can be as helpful as light therapy. Still other studies have found vitamin D has no effect.
It will likely take a combination of therapies to successfully battle your seasonal depression, so approach the process of coping with a curious mindset. Keep a log of what you’re trying and how it makes you feel. It might take some time to find out what helps most, so don’t give up. Soon enough you’ll be enjoying winter more than you ever thought possible.