Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that usually begins in the autumn and progresses through the winter months. While further research is needed to determine the specific causes, it is widely believed it’s connected to the impact that the shorter and darker days have on the body’s circadian rhythm. If you are noticing symptoms of SAD—also known as seasonal depression—it’s critical that you don’t brush it off as a winter slump, because it can lead to feelings of hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts if left untreated. Here are 4 tips for beating seasonal depression this winter:
- Incorporate self-care
As with any form of depression, self-care is an essential part of treating SAD. Self-care means doing anything that fosters your mental and emotional health, from brushing your teeth to going on a weekend getaway. Many people who suffer from SAD find it difficult to find the motivation to practice self-care, and this can lead to a downward spiral of hopelessness.
Perhaps one of the best ways to practice self-care is through meditation, because it promotes your overall health. Many people find that creating a meditation space in their home not only allows for the most relaxation, but it also helps them to stick to their regular meditation routine. If you opt to create a meditation space at home, it’s important to ensure the area is free of clutter and distractions, and it can benefit your meditation if you pick somewhere that lets natural light come in.
- Keep moving
While winter may seem like the perfect time to get cozy under the covers and binge Netflix, it’s especially important to exercise during this time. Like with self-care, physical activity helps with all kinds of depression, and it can even be as effective as medication. Regular exercise can boost feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, and it can also enhance self-esteem and promote better sleep. Furthermore, it’s a good way to add structure to your life.
- Seek sunlight
Since the lack of sunlight during the winter months may very well contribute to the development of SAD, it makes sense that exposing yourself to more of it will improve your symptoms. Take advantage of the daylight hours by going for short walks, drinking your coffee on the porch, or doing anything else that gives you a reason to be outside. Even a small amount of sunshine can boost your mood. It can also help to open your blinds and/or curtains to let natural light shine through your home when you’re indoors, or use a lamp that mimics sunlight and offers similar brain-boosting effects.
- Get energized
Your first, best defense against the lethargy that commonly accompanies SAD is getting enough rest. A good mattress and a consistent bedtime routine, and a regular waking time can help you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need. If that’s not working, you may want to consider an energy supplement. Unlike coffee and energy drinks, there are a wide variety of supplements designed to support your overall well-being. Assess your needs, and look for a version with ingredients that boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and put a little more pep in your step.
- Stay social
The last thing you should do when you’re struggling with SAD is withdraw from your family and friends. Avoiding isolation is critical when managing seasonal depression. Consider rekindling old friendships or beginning new ones, and make social activities a part of your daily routine. Connect with someone over a coffee, join a support group, take a class, join a club, and/or start volunteering in the community. Human beings are social creatures, so even if you don’t feel like socializing, it can significantly boost your mood and self-esteem.
Seasonal affective disorder should not be taken lightly as a case of the “winter blues.” It must be confronted and treated. Implement self-care in your daily routine, and consider creating a meditation space in your home. Maintain an exercise regimen to give your life some structure and increase the production of feel-good brain chemicals. Go outdoors during the daytime to expose yourself to sunshine, and let natural light into your home. Finally, reach out to family and friends, and participate in regular social activities.
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