Mitigating Seasonal Affective Disorder: Five Things You Can Do
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depression triggered by changes in daylight and weather, most commonly occurring during the winter months. Scientists do not all agree on the cause, but research shows SAD can occur when the body’s natural circadian rhythms are disrupted. Additionally other studies point to the change in seasons potentially disrupting hormone levels, including mood boosting serotonin and melatonin which regulates sleep. Whatever the cause, individuals experiencing SAD can work to mitigate symptoms. Here are five ways to feel better if you are affected by the winter blues:
Exercise releases and increases serotonin levels in your body, boosting your mood. It also increases endorphins, adrenaline and other brain chemicals associated with feeling happy. Introducing or committing to daily activity is also a great way to combat weight gain, a common side effect of many different forms of depression. Try focusing on an activity you enjoy and including it in your daily routine. Even a thirty minute walk can help you feel better.
Identify What You Enjoy and Do It
While play and fun are prioritized in childhood, often adults forget to find activities they enjoy. Making intentional time for new or old hobbies, volunteering in your community, or spending time with loved ones is so important for your mental health. And making time for fun and family now, before seasonal depression begins, will make it easier to keep the winter blues away.
Set a Schedule and Stick to It
Because SAD can often disrupt sleep, setting a consistent bedtime and waking up consistently will help your body adjust to oncoming seasonal changes. Try unplugging from technology an hour before bed by reading a book or enjoying a warm cup of chamomile tea, to get yourself prepared for a good night’s rest. Additionally, using the snooze function on your alarm can confuse your body’s internal clock, making it more difficult to wake up and start your day.
Prioritize Natural Light
Throughout your day, do your best to get exposure to daylight to optimize your body’s vitamin D production. Vitamin D doesn’t just keep your bones, muscles and heart healthy, it also boosts your mood and can combat the effects of depression. Go for a walk outdoors, open the blinds in your home or work space, and find ways to spend time in the sun (don’t forget the sunscreen!). Getting more natural light, even with one of the many in-home, full spectrum light products available, will help your body produce more vitamin D and help regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Talk to Your Doctor
Depression is a serious mental health condition that should never be ignored. Regardless of season, if you are finding yourself feeling anxious, hopeless, losing interest in activities that previously gave you joy, or experiencing sadness and mood swings, it is important to reach out to someone who can help. Your primary care physician is a great place to start and can connect you to the mental health experts and resources you need.
Learn more about primary care options at CaroMont Health here.
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