It’s early January. For some, January and February are desolate as we struggle with more darkness than sunshine. For some of us, that means a form of Major Depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. In short, Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD, for short – means a winter of depressive symptoms that mirror Major Depression.
Compounding the lack of sunlight is the fact that the weather during January and February can be brutal: Low, low temperatures and snow and ice can keep people cabin bound, which fertile grounds for the development of SAD symptoms.
People with SAD start to feel lethargic and a little depressed when winter hits. According to Kelly Rohan, Ph.D., at least 2 percent of the population suffers from the psychiatric condition.
Gender can also play a role in whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Women are four times more susceptible than men. Although the science hasn’t been able to identify exactly why.
Curling up and sleeping in is fine if you’re a bear. But hibernating isn’t healthy for humans! It can lead to increased depression and weight gain. If you begin to feel glum and gloomy, here are some ways to combat symptoms.
1. Hello, Sunshine
No one wants to get out of bed in those dark mornings and face the chilling fact that it’s getting colder and the days are shorter. But – if you can get out of the house – you might be surprised how much fun you can have! Do fun things around the season. Take a brisk walk. Try an outdoor sport. Go sledding. The more you’re outside and in the sun, the better your mood will be.
2. Yoga, yogurt, and you
Yoga helps keep energy levels up and your mood positive. But your diet often takes a hit when the weather dips. Sugar, although it gives you a quick burst of energy, is not your friend. It can lead to weight gain and gives you a higher chance of developing diabetes. Yogurt can be a great substitute and can also help you lose weight.
3. Lighten Up
Light therapy is a very effective treatment. It’s a special bright light that can help when you first wake up in the morning. But before the bulb goes off in your mind and you decide to try it, consult a professional.
4. Get the weight off your chest.
Hit the gym. Work out the stress. Release endorphins and you could see a change in your mood and body.
5. Keep investing in yourself!
Stick to your routine. Weather is no reason to neglect what you enjoy. Schedule fun times. Stick to your schedule and stick it to the blues.
6. Regulate your sleep cycle
SAD can impact your sleep cycle – you either sleep too much or too little. As you probably know, most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re having difficulties with sleep, here are some tips:
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day, seven days a week – no matter what. This helps your body readjust its internal clock. When the alarm goes off in the morning, hop out of bed.
- Do not fall asleep with the television playing. The television emits a type of blue light that makes your body think it’s sunshine – and daytime.
- Don’t watch anything exciting on television about an hour before you want to fall asleep. Such shows can produce adrenalin without your even knowing. And, we can’t fall asleep with a body of adrenalin.
7. Express Gratitude
Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters that make us feel better. Try going out of your way to express gratitude to someone daily.
Everyday, spend a few minutes in the morning making a gratitude list. Simply, list at least three things you’re grateful for, no matter how small. Keep the list with you and read it a few times throughout the day.
8. Do something nice.
Research into Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has found that one way to light up our happiness pathways in the brain is to so something for someone else.
Finally, if you are in recovery, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be particularly dangerous, especially if you are trying to pinpoint exactly why you’re experiencing this depression and can’t. Sometimes there is no reason and this out of control feeling along with the sadness can test your sobriety. But once you understand why you’re having these feelings, it is very possible to get control over it. And if you’re in recovery and need help coping with depression, call 1-800-RECOVERY.