Every season has its own vibe to it, with plenty of fun activities to do for all of them. We love going to the beach during the summer, exploring cider mills during the fall, skiing or ice skating during the winter, and preparing our gardens during the spring.
Yet many of us seem to have a hard time getting out and enjoying ourselves during the winter months, and the impact it has on our health could be worse than we realize. Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression where people experience mood changes during the fall and winter months when less sunlight is available, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Here are ways to identify Seasonal Affective Disorder, followed by five ways to overcome this condition.
Our Unhealthy Mindset
Many of us despise these cold, bitter months. We say we just aren’t ''winter people.” This thought leads us to stay indoors as much as possible, typically watching movies while sipping on some sugar-filled hot chocolate and staying in our comfort zone as much as we can. Unfortunately, this craving for comfort is usually just the start of a brutal deterioration process on our mental and physical health during the holiday times. This makes sticking to any New Year’s resolutions almost impossible, leading us to believe we just aren’t good enough to make the changes we desire.
Strong scientific reasoning exists for the detrimental decline of our overall health during these months, and there is much more to it than it being “just a case of the winter blues.” Because the daylight slips away from us so much earlier during the winter, it becomes harder for our bodies to obtain vitamin D from the sun. When we don’t get our daily dose of natural sunlight, our circadian rhythm or internal body clock gets out of whack, reducing serotonin levels which impacts mood and cognition. When our serotonin levels drop, our melatonin levels become abnormal, which also impacts mood and sleep patterns. It only takes us a year or two of college to learn how important sleep is for optimal performance in our day-to-day lives.
Symptoms include low energy, sleeping problems, unhealthy appetite changes, feeling sluggish or agitated, problems with concentration and memory, feeling hopeless or worthless, severe fatigue, profound dissociation from one’s sense of self, and anxiety. When all of these become too much to handle, a person might encounter social withdrawal, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Luckily, you can combat SAD with these methods:
1. Light Therapy Using a light therapy box can help you absorb the vitamin D you have been missing out on. It is convenient because all you need to do is sit in front of it while watching movies and drinking hot chocolate.
2. Supplements There are plenty of vitamins and supplements that can help you restore your mental and physical health, but perhaps the most beneficial is vitamin D.
3. Exercise Exercise is a great natural tool for enhancing your serotonin, melatonin and dopamine levels. Just keep in mind “you vs. yourself” is the best mentality to have. Don’t push yourself just because the ripped dude doing curls has a better physique than you. The goal is to feel completed, not defeated.
4. Talk Therapy Talking to a therapist or trusted friend can help you dissect and articulate the illness and help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Medications If you have tried the four natural methods consistently for an extended period and you’re still in the winter slump, talk to a doctor about medications.