It’s no secret that when the temperatures drop and the sun starts to hide, many of us notice our moods turn gloomy as well. However, if you notice the winter and cold weather brings with it a deep depression year after year, you may be dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), like millions of other Americans.
SAD is a form of depression which usually comes around during the colder winter months and is accompanied by symptoms like increased appetite, impaired concentration, weight gain, general social withdrawal, moodiness, and fatigue and low energy levels. While many people brush it off as general moodiness, or “the winter blues,” SAD is a clinical form of depression which is closely linked to an individual’s hormonal levels and overall exposure to natural light. SAD is more prevalent in parts of the world that endure long and cold winters. The disorder also affects both men and women, but is generally more common in women.
How to Prevent SAD
Since the symptoms of SAD are closely linked to other forms of depression, it’s best to visit a doctor and get a proper diagnosis.
There are a number of things you can do on your own to combat the effects of SAD. Here are the top five:
1. Make time to exercise
Time spent exercising can significantly decrease the intensity of SAD symptoms. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day. Walking, hiking, and yoga all count as forms of exercise that can be done in the winter months. Whatever the weather, make time to move your body and you will notice a difference.
2. Expose yourself to light
Physicians commonly prescribe light therapy. However, a regular light won’t do the trick. Special light therapy boxes come with a wide range of brightness levels and types of lights, depending on the prescription. Consult your physician before buying to ensure that you buy the right one for your symptoms.
3. Talk to someone
Talking to a trusted friend or loved one can help ease your symptoms. For more effective results, combine both light and talk therapy. One study found cognitive behavioral therapy was just as effective as light therapy in treating SAD. A combination of talk therapy and light therapy together was also found to be effective.
5. Fill up on complex carbs
Complex carbohydrates can help regulate the serotonin levels that regulate mood. However, be mindful of those carbs and focus on quality, slow-burning carbs that come from a bowl of oatmeal, whole grain rice, or quinoa.
The Final Word
Although many of us feel best when it’s sunny and bright, it’s important not to accept SAD as an inevitable part of life. Taking steps to reduce your symptoms will help you enjoy the winter season and feel your best!