Are the darker days taking their toll on your mood? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). About 5% of adults in the U.S experience SAD. It tends to start in young adulthood (usually between the ages of 18 and 30). SAD affects women more than men, though researchers aren’t sure why. According to the Cleveland Clinic, roughly 10% to 20% of people in America may experience a milder form of the winter blues. If you find yourself feeling melancholy during the winter months, try these tips:
- Soak up Morning Sun – Winter blues can be worst in the mornings when you’re first getting up from bed. Open the curtains or blinds right away to get exposure to natural light as your body is waking up. If you need to wake up before sunrise, try a natural light alarm clock. The light gradually gets brighter to mimic the sun rising.
- Supplement with Vitamin D – One popular method for treating SAD is vitamin D, which most people naturally get from their diet and especially sunlight (something the wintertime very clearly lacks). It’s believed that vitamin D can help manage the debilitating symptoms of the mental health condition, which include a lack of motivation, changes in sleep patterns, increased irritability and sadness.
- Exercise – When you’re working your muscles, your brain works hard to override the temporary feelings of discomfort by telling the body to keep pushing. You’ll naturally release endorphins, which will make you feel happier and even euphoric. A meta-review published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal suggested that, for some individuals, exercise might be comparable to therapy or anti-depressants as an effective treatment for depression. Even better? Try to exercise outside. Studies confirm that spending time outside can relieve stress, so bundle up and go for a brisk walk or run.
- Avoid Sugar – You know what too much sugar can do to your waistline, but research shows that sugar has a negative effect on mental health, too. Countries that consume the most sugar have higher rates of depression, and scientists believe it interferes with the body’s ability to cope with stress and can worsen anxiety. Many people crave sweet and starchy foods in the wintertime because they provide a temporary energy boost, but these treats will ultimately leave you feeling just as sluggish as before.
- Lighten Up (the Room) – Research suggests that light boxes and artificial sunlight lamps can help up to 50 percent of people who suffer from SAD. The bright light emitted from these devices helps the body awaken in the morning and decreases the hormone melatonin that keeps us asleep at night.