Best Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally. It is triggered by the change in seasons and usually occurs during winter, possibly due to the lack of sunlight. This condition affects more than 500,000 individuals annually and peaks around the same time each year. For the most part, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, which often include chronic fatigue, depression, and other psychological disturbances, begin in the fall and continue throughout the winter months. This condition may also occur during the spring or early summer, but these cases are far less common.

Light Therapy

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Seasonal affective disorder symptoms can be improved by using a light therapy box, which gives off light similar to sunshine. Therapy lightboxes contain light that is much brighter than regular light bulbs. They also give off light in different wavelengths. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Sitting in front of a light therapy box for thirty minutes per day can suppress the release of melatonin by stimulating the body's circadian rhythms. Research shows light therapy is most effective in the morning.

Exercise

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When it comes to treating depression, exercise is a tried and true method to reduce the severity of symptoms. Weather permitting, outdoor exercise is best as individuals get the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air. Heading to the gym is the next best option. While there, individuals should look for cardio machines located near a window. Exercise may also help reduce the risk of weight gain associated with seasonal affective disorder. If individuals can't make it to the gym, a home workout will also help keep the winter blues at bay. Getting physical and starting a workout regimen can go a long way towards making patients with seasonal affective disorder feel better about themselves, their lifestyle, and the time of year.

Herbal And Vitamin Remedies

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Research shows St. John's wort is just as effective in the treatment of depression as certain prescription medications. This home remedy now has a reputation as a mild antidepressant. Studies have shown one of the components of St. John's wort indirectly helps increase the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin. Multivitamins and mineral supplements that contain vitamin B6, thiamin, and folic acid have also been shown to benefit an individual's mood when taken appropriately. Of course, however, seasonal affective disorder patients, just like anyone else, must be sure to consult a doctor before taking any herbal supplements.

Eat Healthy

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Eating a healthy diet is especially important during the winter months when seasonal affective disorder is most common. Patients must avoid refined sugars and high fatty foods that can cause weight gain, inflammation, and worsen mood disorders. They should keep their meals light and focus on getting lots of fruits and vegetables, which are full of antioxidants and any phytochemicals that keep physical and mental diseases away. Foods high in omega fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseed, have also been shown to improve mood. Refined sugar may give patients an initial lift, but afterward, their energy plummets and so will their mood. Instead, they should opt for protein-dense meals that can help increase alertness.

Music Therapy

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Music is often linked to mood, and a certain song can make individuals feel happy, sad, energetic, or relaxed. Because music can have such an impact on an individual's mindset and well-being, music therapy has been studied for use in managing numerous medical conditions, including anxiety and depression. This is also why music therapy has been extended into treating seasonal affective disorder, as many believe listening to upbeat music can help pull patients out of a winter funk. Individuals dealing with seasonal affective disorder should try listening to cheerful music at the gym or while doing chores around the house. Singing along is also encouraged for both short term and long term mood improvements.

Keep Busy

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Sitting around the house on a cold winter day would make anyone feel blue, even if they do not suffer from seasonal affective disorder. With this in mind, then, patients should keep busy by planning activities they enjoy to keep their mind off being sad. Some individuals may want to look into volunteering at their local animal shelter as animals have a great way of showing humans love. Visiting family and friends is also a great idea. Many seasonal affective disorder patients point out the secret, aside from being as active as possible, is to surround themselves with friends and loved ones who won't let them shut themselves in the house all winter long. Activities like planning a summer vacation will give individuals something to look forward to during those cold months.

Dawn Stimulators

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One of the first things anyone suffering from seasonal affective disorder should do is try to get more natural light. In some places, this is, unfortunately, not possible, especially when the long nights and short days of the winter months set in. If patients have trouble getting out of bed during the cold winter months, they might want to consider investing in a dawn simulator that gradually brightens their room as dawn would. Studies have shown strong evidence indicating dawn simulators can serve as an antidepressant. Individuals looking to try using a dawn simulator should set it up so the light wakes them up at the time their alarm clock usually would. This lighting device has two effects: it wakes individuals up, and for some, it will also have a positive effect on their mood.

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