Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How to Cope


What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint just what pushes some people into this seasonal depression, experts believe a few elements are involved, including:

  • Brain chemicals
  • Ions in the air
  • Genetics
  • A shift in your circadian rhythm
  • Increase in melatonin

Whichever processes have triggered your case of SAD, one thing is clear: the amount of light you get has a huge impact on your symptoms. As the days get shorter and the mornings stay darker for longer, you will probably notice your symptoms getting worse, and you might have a very hard time improving your mood throughout the day.

How to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

You might feel helpless in the face of the cruel, cold winter, but there are a few ways to combat the uneasiness and depression it brings. The best solution will likely involve light, activity, social support, and of course, consultation with your doctor.

Get the Right Light

Getting more light into your day is a simple and effective solution, but you need the right kind of light. Simply sitting in a brightly lit room probably won’t do the trick; using a special light box that delivers an abundance of UV rays will make a much bigger difference.

White light therapy is the traditional approach to treating SAD, but newer blue light therapy seems to have an equally positive effect. Both conventional tube bulbs and LED lights can be used, but whichever device you decide on, it’s crucial you get the high quality of light you need.

There are plenty of SAD light manufacturers out there, and some aren’t medically supported. Do your research and check with your doctor whether the brand is reputable before you make your purchase.

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Time Light Therapy Properly

Experts generally agree that the most important time to get light is in the morning. After all, the rising sun naturally rouses your body and mind, resetting your internal clock and lifting your mood. Mood and energy can get a lot worse when you’re waking up before dawn.

However, like many conditions, there’s no one-size-fits-all cure for SAD. Everyone experiences the symptoms a bit differently, and everyone has their own circadian rhythm and sleep habits.

If you’re naturally late to bed and late to rise, getting a dose of bright light too early in the morning could make your SAD symptoms worse. Consider your own habits and personality when you treat your SAD.

Watch Your Diet

As the weather and seasons change, people shift their food intake. On chilly fall and winter days, people might be more interested in meals that are heartier and more comforting. Plus, there is the desire carried over from your ancestors to add a few pounds when the weather turns to survive the harsh winters when food was scarce.

These normal diet changes can have a big impact on your mood, especially if you are susceptible to the effects of weather changes. It turns out, your diet changes could combine with the seasons to make your mood, energy level, and optimism all sink in the winter.

To neutralize the impact, you should stick to a healthy, fresh diet no matter the time of year. Plan your meals to include a balanced mix of proteins, whole foods, and plenty of veggies to feed your body and your brain the nutrition it really needs.

Next page: More ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder and next steps.

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