Feeling “SAD” now that summer’s over? Seasonal affective disorder isn’t all in your mind. Most people will experience at least minor fatigue and depression as their exposure to direct sunlight dwindles. But for others, SAD can have a truly negative impact on their quality of life. If you’re one of those people, trying even just one or two of these lifestyle changes can have a big impact.
Keep it Moving
The Gulf Coast may not have the kind of winters that truly drive people inside. But it does get dark earlier in the day during these cooler months.
It’s understandable if you’d prefer to pass the winter months huddled under a blanket listening to podcasts. But too often, that leads to a vicious cycle of feeling more lethargic from your sedentary lifestyle, which in turn saps you of energy.
In fact, exercise is a key component of combating SAD. Working out helps through a combination of your body producing more serotonin — a natural mood booster — and losing any winter weight that’s been making you feel even worse.
It might be hard to get motivated at first if you don’t normally work out. To psych yourself up, get some warmer clothes to help you take a stroll outside, or join a gym that your friends already belong to. And don’t forget that you can always take that podcast along with you when you hit that jogging path or home treadmill!
Take Advantage of High-Tech Helpers
These days, people have a range of artificial light solutions to help mitigate the decrease in natural sunlight. One such device is a dawn simulator. As the name suggests, the dawn simulator slowly wakes you up with an increasing amount of light, similar to a sunrise. Choose one that provides full-spectrum light, which is the closest to actual sunlight.
An even more tried-and-true weapon for combatting SAD is a phototherapy box. Sitting in front of a light box for as little as 20 minutes a day can significantly boost “feel good” brain chemicals, the Mayo Clinic reports. These bright-light therapy boxes are most effective when used in the morning.
Choose S’mores Before Chores
If you tend to suffer from seasonal depression, it’s important to make your mental health a priority when creating a schedule. Carve out free time in your weekly plans (even if you’re sure that there isn’t much to be found). Once you’ve identified blocks of “me” time, plan things for those hours that you truly enjoy.
For many people, getting together with friends and family is a key part of fighting off SAD. Socialization helps you feel less alone, especially if your group is doing a fun activity, whether that’s going out to brunch or going on a camping trip.
Remember That One Size Doesn’t Fit All
While working out more and making healthy nutritional choices is always a good idea, not all common strategies for fighting SAD will work for everyone. For example, you may be the type who doesn’t benefit from hectic parties, but instead feel better taking a bath with mood-boosting essential oils such as lavender.
If your SAD doesn’t improve with lifestyle adjustments, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. She may suggest tests to determine any vitamin deficiencies, such as Vitamin D, or perhaps prescribe an appropriate antidepressant.
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