“It just seems like I get depressed each winter,” a close friend told me. My friend wasn’t going through a brief phase. It was a recurring cycle of depression that severely affected her each winter.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real. And it disrupts millions of Americans each year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder usually erupts during the winter months and can look and feel much like depression. When the days get shorter, the sun shines lower in the sky, and the weather gets colder, people often experience a drop in mood. For some, the change is serious. They have difficulty getting up in the morning and feel lethargic most of the day.
I thought it would be important to share about this very real disorder – and how to fight it. This post will mostly focus on sunlight, sun boxes, and Vitamin D. I will be sharing more posts about this topic in the weeks to come. However, please know that because SAD is a form of depression, it’s best diagnosed by talking with a mental health professional. If you have SAD, therapy can help you work through it.
Lack of exposure to light
Some people find light therapy effective for seasonal depression. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box. Not a box with just light emissions, but a serious light therapy box to fight off seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy boxes give off light that mimics sunshine and can provide recovery from seasonal affective disorder. The light from the therapy boxes is significantly brighter than that of regular light bulbs, and it’s provided in different wavelengths. Sitting in front of a light box for more than 30 minutes a day will stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress its natural release of melatonin.
Some people find that using a dawn simulator (a bedside light connected to an alarm clock that mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually) as well as a light box can also help.
Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements can also have significant improvement in fighting depression. Talk to your doctor about testing your Vitamin D levels and whether supplements would be right for you.
Vitamin D is also found in a range of foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily meals. Salmon, for instance, is naturally rich in D-3. Eggs are also a good source of the vitamins D-2 and D-3.
I also seriously recommend an app called the Dminder that reminds you how long to be outside and the optimum times of day to be outdoors. Speaking of…
Spend More Time Outdoors
If you have seasonal depression, you’ll want to get outside as much as you can during the day and take advantage of what sunlight there is. If you live where it’s cold, be sure to bundle up, but take a stroll around the block at noon or soon after – that’s when the sun is brightest.
Go On Vacation
Escape those cold and overcast skies. Even a few days in a sunny place can be helpful with winter depression. The excitement can lift your mood even as you start to plan your vacation and can linger a few weeks after you return.