The winter months can be the darkest, literally and figuratively. Many of us may find ourselves suffering from a season-based form of depression called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent and treat it.
How SAD Affects Us
It’s thought that SAD is caused by the seasonal change in weather. When we don’t get enough sunlight, our hormone production is affected. It’s a double whammy, with our bodies producing too much melatonin and not enough serotonin, which can make us sleepy, depressed, and unmotivated. You may notice yourself sleeping more and finding it difficult to wake up, and your body may crave heavy foods such as carbohydrates. Negative emotions, like guilt, sadness, or anxiety, may plague your waking hours. All in all, SAD is nothing to take lightly.
Add More Light
Our circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, is dependent on the daylight we experience. During the winter, those daylight hours shorten, and we may not see the sun between going to work and coming home. This can negatively affect us, and cause seasonal affective disorder to develop. However, there is a treatment to alleviate or prevent the symptoms. Using a light box, a lamp that replicates sunlight, first thing in the morning can re-center our systems. The lightbulb itself produces an intense brightness of 10,000 lux, which can mimic a cloudy day. This helps our bodies to reset and get our sleeping schedule back on track. With restored balance, our melatonin and serotonin levels return to normal levels.
Supplement Your Diet
Changing the foods we eat in winter can be beneficial. Increase the amount of Omega-3s, vitamin B, and magnesium you consume. Bananas, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon are all good options for improving both your diet and how you feel. Leafy greens are full of folic acid, which can also combat feelings of depression. Don’t shy away from supplements either, as things like St. John’s and SAM-e can help to balance mood. Energy-boosting supplements can also provide relief during these darker months. However, think about what you need specifically. Don’t grab just any energy-booster; instead, look for one that addresses mental wellness.
Most of us know that exercise can fight depression and make us feel good. Yet, taking our workouts outside can amplify those benefits. Studies suggest that even a casual walk in the park can bring about generous improvement in our physical and emotional states. Even if it’s cold, bundle up and try to walk outside for 10 to 15 minutes, if not longer. At the least, get some physical activity inside if the weather is too foul to permit going out-of-doors.
Bring Happiness Inside
Sometimes, we need a bit of cheering up. One way to help ourselves is to brighten our homes and make them happier places to be. Start by opening curtains or shutters during the day to let in daylight. Paint your walls a color that brings you joy, something upbeat and vibrant. Add plants, especially in your bedroom, to purify the air and uplift your rooms. Decluttering and staying on top of cleaning can make our homes feel better to be in. This leaves us less stressed and better able to focus on things that matter. After all, our environment should be a place where wellness and joy are fostered. A few small changes can truly make all the difference.
It only takes a few adjustments to get our lives back on track. Of course, starting may be difficult once seasonal affective disorder has taken hold, so it’s best to be pre-emptive. Don’t let depression get the best of you this winter.