6 ways to avoid getting SAD this winter
If you’re one of the thousands of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you’ll be dreading the colder months. But don't despair, these six simple measures can help you fight your SAD days.
SAD - a subtype of major depression - can leave you feeling down, overtired and lacking in energy. While researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause, we do know that several factors are at play: A reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce your levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood) and melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood). Here are six ways you can fight SAD with some natural and technological weapons.
1. Let more daylight in
Sitting next to an artificial light - a light box - for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as antidepressant medication, according to some experts. The therapy simply mimics natural light and give your body what it’s missing out in in the darker months. Studies also show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed. Check out Amazon for good options.
2. Get mindful in the comfort of your own home
“Mindfulness can be a healthy habit year round, however it is especially beneficial when you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, says Lysnpsychologist Elyse McNeil. “Things like meditation, affirmations and breathing exercises all allow you to focus on being in the present moment and appreciating the now, and encourage practicing being grateful which will also improve your mindset.”
Mindfulness also focuses on your perception and attitude which is likely to improve if you’re focusing more on the positive things in life. And these days you can get mindful with the help of an app. Headspace is just one of many apps with mindfulness exercises, which vary from guided lengthy mind workouts to fast options for those who need a quick reprieve from an anxiety attack.
3. Load up on Vitamin D
What better way to mimic the benefits we get from sunlight than going right to the source: Vitamin D. Studies show the majority of people are deficient in this nutrient which strengthens the immune system. And that's especially so when the sun doesn’t shine as bright. Fatty fish such as salmon are laden with Vitamin D - so why not try one of these recipes tonight?
4. Exercise under lights
A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression - just another reason to get into exercise. “It goes without saying that the endorphins released when you exercise also give you an instant mood boost,” says Elyse. “Try and find movement that feels good for your body and do whatever makes you feel excited and engaged.”
Doing that movement under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression. A preliminary study has found that it improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality.
5. Remind yourself to drink more water
Drinking more water may help you combat SAD, with depression linked to a lack of H2O. Both our bodies and our brain tissue are made of water, and studies show that people who don't drink enough get headaches, exhaustion and worsened moods. Luckily, technology has honed in on this dehydration issue. Smart water bottles can remind you when to drink water, can connect to your Fitbit, or make your water the perfect drinking temperature. And Amazon’s Alexa can be linked to a smartphone app called H2O Pal, which lets you track your intake. Welcome to the future!
6. Seek professional help early
If you struggle with feelings of depression, it is important to consider seeking professional help, says McNeil, “A psychologist can help determine what you’re suffering from and will offer actionable methods of treatment.” There are many forms of therapy that can assist in the treatment of SAD, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which works on finding, challenging and changing negative, automatic thoughts. If you don’t like the idea of face to face treatment, there are now online options available, including Lysn.