Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder during Cold and Dreary Weather

Stop fighting winter, grab a hold and slide into smiles.
Stop fighting winter, grab a hold and slide into smiles. #embracewinter

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly called SAD, is a type of depression. People experience it more frequently when autumn transitions into winter. Scientists don’t know exactly what causes people to get SAD, but they believe SAD is associated with a decrease in the amount of daylight. The symptoms of SAD include irritability, cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, sleep changes, feelings of sadness or hopelessness and withdrawal from socializing and favorite activities. If you think you have SAD, a visit to your doctor is in order.

There are several treatment options for treating SAD during cold and dreary weather, and here are some of them that might help you.

Light Therapy

When there’s less daylight, light therapy is an option to give your body more exposure to the full spectrum of light. Before buying any equipment, check with your doctor in order to make sure that light therapy is a good choice for you. People who take certain medications that cause photosensitivity should not use light therapy. Your doctor can recommend a type of light bulb or a lightbox for you to use at home. You could also replace your regular light bulbs with full-spectrum units. These provide a softer glow that is more like sunlight. Ask your doctor when to use light therapy and for how long to use it.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is a proven way to treat all types of depression, including SAD. If you’ve gained some weight because of SAD, exercise helps burn some of those extra calories. People who have been sedentary should check with their doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

If you have been exercising on a regular basis, try something new. Branch out and challenge yourself. If you usually swim, try water aerobics. If you typically use a treadmill or elliptical exerciser, find a friend to play racquetball or shoot some hoops. Consider a trip to an indoor rock climbing wall. An indoor trampoline park or laser tag facility could also be fun, and you could bring along some friends.

Going Outdoors

Even if it’s cold outside, go outdoors. Bundle up in your warmest winter apparel, put on a pair of sunglasses and just get outside. On a cloudy day, some sunlight still filters through, and your body’s circadian rhythms can be reset by this sunlight exposure. Consider combining time outdoors with exercise. A brisk walk on a chilly morning could help reset your mood. The movement stretches your muscles. Go to a place that you enjoy, such as a park with nice scenery. If there’s an outdoor mall near your location, walk along the pathways and do some people watching.

Avoiding Nighttime Electronics Use

If you have SAD, you may be tempted to stay at home and avoid in-person social interactions. Instead, you might turn to your phone and engage with people on social media. You might play games on your computer or smartphone or spend a lot of time watching shows or movies. Avoid using electronics within an hour of your bedtime. The bright lights of the LED screens stimulate your brain and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Poor sleep and a lack of sleep contribute to negative moods, increase your stress and can worsen the symptoms of depression.