What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of major depressive disorder that includes a recurrent season pattern. Someone who struggles with seasonal affective disorder may experience symptoms of sadness, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating for about 4 or 5 months out of the year. While some people experience seasonal depression during the summer months, this type of depression is most commonly felt during the winter.
Winter months are typically defined by shorter days and colder nights, causing people to sleep more, withdraw socially, and oversleep. It is common for people who experience seasonal depression to self-medicate with substances. However, there are healthier and safer ways to make the darker months a little brighter.
How to Treat Seasonal Depression
There are various treatments available for seasonal depression. It is always recommended to speak with a medical professional prior to trying any treatment to ensure you choose the best one for you. Here are some tips that will help make your days a little better:
1. Light Therapy
Due to the tilt in the Earth’s axis, the fall and winter months naturally have less daylight. In addition, these months also bring the period recognized as Daylight Savings Time. To kick off Daylight Savings Time, it is customary to “fall back” and set the clocks back one hour, making the sunset even earlier. This lack of sunlight can significantly impact people with seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy is one of the main treatments for people who experience seasonal depression. For thirty to forty-five minutes a day, light therapy exposes people to bright light in place of natural sunlight. Light boxes are intentionally brighter than standard indoor lights and are effective treatment options for those with seasonal affective disorder.
2. Exercise Daily
Exercise is beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Research shows that exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of depression by releasing endorphins and increasing other chemicals that help create feelings of happiness. Doing exercises like running, weight-lifting, yoga or even daily walks are helpful to boost your mood.
3. Eat Healthy Meals
Feeding your body vitamins, minerals, and proper nutrients is essential to living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a clear mind. Nourishing your body may not be a top priority if you struggle with substance use or depression, but eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet can influence your mood, energy levels, and brain function.
4. Regular Sleep Schedule
Although the sun goes down earlier, making it darker at earlier hours, it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Getting a good night’s rest helps both your body and mind reset and recharge for the next day. When you are well-rested, you will notice an improvement in your overall mood, focus, and emotional well-being.
5. Go Outside
One of the best ways to fight seasonal depression is to get outside! Even though the hours of sunlight may be shorter, try to soak up as much sunshine as possible. Sunlight is one of the primary sources of vitamin D, which also helps combat depression. Whether it be for a brisk walk, reading in a park, or simply sitting and enjoying the outdoors, sunshine makes a significant contribution to fighting depressive symptoms.
Seek Professional Help at Mount Sinai Wellness Center
Whether you experience depressive symptoms seasonally or more regularly, it is critical to seek out professional help. Mount Sinai Wellness Center offers a variety of behavioral therapies, as well as other treatment programs to help you break negative habits and see the bright and rich future available to you.
Call (800) 353-4673 or contact us online to speak with a compassionate treatment specialist about our available treatment programs.