Winter is now officially here. For some people this season isn’t just filled with happy holiday family events, hot cocoa by the fire, and sledding. If you’ve been feeling a bit down lately and aren’t sure why, you may have SAD. SAD is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a surprisingly common disorder. Nearly one in twenty people suffer from it. SAD symptoms vary from person to person and can get quite severe. While one person might need a little more self-motivation to get up every morning others might feel so depressed they require work with a counselor to get through. The most common symptoms of sad include:
- Feeling lethargic
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Mood swings
- Body feeling heavy or weak
- Unusual anxiety or worry
- Aptness to oversleep
Not surprisingly, SAD usually hits hardest during winter but begins in fall for many people. This is believed to be linked to the shortened days as the seasons get colder. The shorter the day, the less light people get. This is made worse during dreary, cloudy days. When humans don’t get enough sunlight they produce more melatonin than normal. This biological function is perfect for many animals as it stimulates hibernation. It can be not so helpful to us humans who still have responsibilities to perform during the season. Studies have shown that one very successful way to combat SAD is through light therapy.
Light therapy is a highly recommended way of combating SAD. By using light boxes (special lighting fixtures) in your home you can replicate ideal sunny conditions. There are some that you simply turn on and other that simulate a rising sun, which starts off dim and grows brighter as you awaken. The treatment time for using these light boxes varies so it would be wise to contact your doctor before using it. Light boxes can be invaluable for those with SAD but natural sunlight is always the best option whenever possible.
Don’t be afraid to get outside and soak up the rays whenever you can. To further help with SAD, take a careful look at your diet and see what you can improve. Diet has a huge role in not only physical health but mental health as well. Heavy, fatty foods and carbohydrates tend to make us feel weighed down and tired. Stick with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Try to drink lots of water and stay away from soda, sugar-filled juices and alcohol. Coffee might make you feel more awake but it is a farce.
Cut back on the caffeine and look into more natural ways to wake up your body, such as exercise. There is no excuse to not exercise, particularly in cold weather when we’re more apt to become couch potatoes. Those who suffer from SAD will greatly benefit from a quick, daily workout.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.