Many of us have the tendency to feel blue during the autumn and winter months, but some of us are more affected by the cold than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder troubles 1 and 15 people, and many are unaware they suffer from the condition. The key symptoms include feelings of depression (ranging from mild to severe), low energy, problems focusing, increased appetite, weight gain, and a greater desire to be by yourself.
If you are a victim of SAD, the most important thing to remember is that it is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are not alone. Tons of people face the challenges of winter depression, including celebrities such as Australian pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and American talk show host Rosie O’Donnell. While anti-depressants may be needed for more serious cases, there are plenty of natural ways to help ease the distress SAD causes.
1. Design your day.
It may seem a daunting task to schedule every minute of your day, but in the long run it really does help. People with SAD tend to procrastinate and waste thing, and this only makes them feel sadder at the end of the day. If you write a to-do list for yourself the night before, it will make you feel more focused and productive in the morning.
2. Go outside at least once a day.
Lack of natural sunlight is the main instigator of SAD, as this causes our serotonin levels to drop. For this reason it is very important to get as much ‘outdoor time’ as possible. Most people might be put off by this idea when it gets colder, but just a brief 20 minute walk will do you the world of good.
3. Use light therapy.
If you can’t get outside for whatever reason, make use of indoor lighting to lift your spirits. Invest in an SAD lamp or switch to full spectrum light bulbs. Make sure you keep the curtains open during the day.
4. Make use of your windows.
Windows are more than mere accessories. If you start to feel blue, go and sit by the window for a while with a cup of tea a good book. Opening your windows to let fresh air in will also benefit your mood.
5. Turn household chores into workouts.
If you’re an avid gym goer already then great work, keep it up! But for some of us, exercise doesn’t come naturally (especially when it gets to the colder months). Try squatting when lifting household items, or squeeze in your muscles while sweeping. Blast out some music and dance while cooking dinner. All of this contributes towards raising your energy levels and releasing you ‘happy hormones’.
6. Invest in an adult colouring book.
Any form of art is a fantastic way of reducing stress, and its just so well that colouring books for adults are all the rage this winter. They’re pretty cheap to buy and you can find them in most newsagents. This is an ideal activity to with your kids if they have their own colouring books too!
7. Eat lots of berries.
Keeping up a healthy diet is obviously going to put you on the right track, but its not always easy. Berries are an amazing source of Vitamin C and they’re also shown to reduce your cortisol levels (cortisol is also known as “the stress hormone”). Making sure you’re stocked up on strawberries, raspberries and blueberries will make for an easy feel-good snack without having to give up the foods you love.
8. Take Vitamin D.
SAD can also be linked to a Vitamin D deficiency. This is because Vitamin D is produced from sunlight. To make up for this loss, eat plenty of lean proteins such as white fish, cheese and egg yolks. You can also purchase Vitamin D from your local drugstore.
9. Plan a ‘me’ day once a week.
A key component to being happy is to always give yourself something to look forward to. Set aside one day a week for a fun activity – it could be a trip to the cinema or a day out shopping. Whenever you start to feel low, just focus on that activity and you’ll begin to feel better.
10. Read a book before bed.
Immersing yourself in a good story not only distracts your mind, but it also helps you to feel sleepy. Getting enough sleep is vital to a less stressful and healthier life. If books aren’t your thing then try listening to a podcast.
11. Talk about your SADness.
Lastly, don’t ever feel ashamed to feel unhappy! Having Seasonal Affective Disorder is not your fault and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to those close to you about SAD. Show them some articles so they have a greater understanding of what you’re going through. They may have been adding to the stress without realizing, and will be more than happy to help you deal with times when you feel troubled.