How to Deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

Winter will be here in just a matter of weeks, and as much as we’re looking forward to celebrating the holidays, we can’t say we’re too excited about the three months of cold, dark weather that we’ll have to endure post-New Year. According to science, we’re not alone—research suggests that around 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, typically during winter. While there isn’t a cure for SAD, there are strategies that can help to manage and mitigate its effects.

Light Therapy

Exposure to sunlight is crucial for regulating the body’s circadian rhythm and can even increase production of serotonin in the brain. For those who experience seasonal depression, one of the most widely recommended treatments is light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a special box that emits full-spectrum light designed to mimic the sun. Just 30 minutes to an hour each day can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve mood.

Regular Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, or “feel good” hormones that relieve stress and enhance mood. If you’re able, aim to get in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or just dancing around to your favorite music. Outdoor exercise during daylight hours is even better, as it comes with the added benefit of exposure to sunlight.

Stick to Routine

Our bodies thrive on routine, and disruptions to daily activities caused by poor weather can seriously exacerbate SAD symptoms. Stick to a regular sleep schedule that includes waking up at the same time each day, and do your best to follow a balanced diet filled with plenty of protein and healthy fats. It’s also important to make time for activities that bring you joy—anything that creates a sense of structure and control can reduce the effects of seasonal depression.