Seasonal Affective Disorder is no fun. Its acronym alone makes that clear: S.A.D. Being sad sucks. And now that the weather has turned and Daylight Savings Time has come to an end, you might be starting to feel the beginnings of its annual effects. But fear not, if you plan ahead, you can help avoid (or at least greatly reduce) this winter depression monster. It just takes a little effort and knowing what works best for you. Here are a few things to help keep the S.A.D. monster away.
Exercise is known to release endorphins, which we know makes us feel good. That means when it’s cold and crappy out and the only thing you want to do is eat Christmas cookies and binge on Netflix all day, it’s more important than ever to get your butt off the couch and start moving. Pro tip: yoga is especially beneficial for those with S.A.D., because you get both the exercise benefit and the stress reduction benefit, which means it is a double hit of things you really need this time of year. And when it’s really freezing cold out, try hot yoga–it feels incredible to leave the frost behind for an hour, sweating it out in summer-like heat.
Friends are truly the best medicine. Locking yourself inside all winter will only make you feel more isolated and that will only increase negative thought patterns. While the very nature of S.A.D. makes you want to hide under the covers until winter is over, making the effort to go out and see the people you love on a regular basis will have long-lasting positive effects on your mood. Friends are cool like that.
Dose up on vitamin D
Since the main cause of S.A.D. is the lack of daylight, and the purpose of daylight is to give us our daily dose of vitamin D–a.k.a. the one that releases our happy vibes-taking an extra dose of the sunshine vitamin all winter can really make a drastic difference in your mood. Many Canadians are vitamin D-deficient in the winter, so you can even ask your doctor to test your levels to find out what exact dosage of supplement you should take to get back on track.
Invest in a light box
If you see your doctor about S.A.D., they are likely to suggest trying out light therapy. No prescription is required, but light boxes aren’t cheap. That said, spending an hour a day in front of one shortly after waking up has proven to help increase vitamin D levels and therefore decrease S.A.D., as it mimics the effect of natural sunlight. If you’re looking to invest in one, be sure to get one with a light source of at least 10,000 lux in order for it to be effective.
Try talk therapy
If all else fails and your symptoms start to get real bad, consider talking to a trained professional. Sometimes just having someone to talk to can help lift the cloud of darkness winter provides. They will have tried and true techniques for dealing with whatever ails you, and, at the very least, unloading you issues on someone with a sympathetic ear will help reduce your stress.