According to Psychology Today, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which affects around 10 million people in the United States.
Most commonly, SAD episodes arise in late fall, lasting through the winter before receding in the spring. These episodes may include low energy or fatigue, weight gain, social withdrawal, and other symptoms.
Some research suggests that SAD may be caused by the body’s regulation of melatonin and Vitamin D levels in response to shorter days and longer nights. While psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medications can be prescribed, not all people living with SAD may feel comfortable with these options.
Below are five ways people are kicking their winter seasonal depression.
Invest in Light Therapy Devices
Light therapy isn’t for everyone, but can help some people manage their SAD symptoms. As with any sort of therapeutic treatment, it’s important to monitor its effects alongside a regular schedule of use.
Mayo Clinic recommends double-checking to make sure your light therapy box filters out harmful UVs before purchasing, and also cautions that light therapy boxes can trigger mania in people living with bipolar.
Open Blinds Before Bed to Maximize Morning Sunlight Inside
This is an easy strategy I use myself. When you’re about to go to bed, open up your blinds or curtains in the rooms you’ll be in most during your morning routine. This way you’ll be exposed to sunlight as soon as you get going in the morning.
If possible, position your bed so you can see the sunrise this way too. The extra boost of morning light without any effort on your part may help you better allot your energy towards other tasks you need to accomplish.
Get Up Early
If you get up early and get started on your morning routine before the sun rises, you can arrange your morning schedule so that you have more time to just take in the sunrise and early morning sunlight rather than trying to do that and get ready.
On the other end of the day, early rising means earlier bedtimes, which helps split the parts of the day you’re awake when it’s not light outside.
Get Outside As Often As Possible
This is probably the most obvious strategy, but it’s also one we don’t tend to consciously think of until we’ve gone out for the day and feel the resulting mood boost. Schedule as many reminders as you need to make use of sunny days whenever possible.
Depending on what type of work you are in, it may even be possible to shift your work hours during the winter so that you have more recreation time in the morning sun.
Focus on Planning for Brighter Days
I saved this for last because it’s an unconventional strategy and doesn’t necessarily, directly mitigate any SAD symptoms. However, the winter is an excellent time for planning the year ahead. If possible, try and get in the mindset of approaching winter this way. It’s like a months-long, free-form planning workshop for all the great things you’re going to do when the days are longer again.
So sketch out some garden plans, do research on new hobbies, and make lists of tasks you need to get done in the spring. After a few years of getting in this rhythm, this is a strategy that’s worked very well for me.