Once the holidays are over and you're up to your seventh snowfall for the year, winter can become a bit of a drag for everyone. However, for some people, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has the ability to make the colder months extremely difficult. That's why I got in touch with Deborah Offner, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and educational consultant. She was more than willing to provide her amazing insights on how to combat seasonal affective disorder, as well as what constitutes this issue.
"Seasonal affective disorder refers to a seasonal pattern of mood variation in which a person regularly becomes depressed during the fall and winter months, with no particular life stressor or trigger other than the changes in weather and environmental light patterns," says Dr. Offner. "The most typical or 'hallmark' symptoms of SAD, in addition to sadness and low mood, include low energy, fatigue, sleeping more than usual, and eating more (especially carbohydrates). Many people with SAD also experience anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability, loss of libido, and a weakened immune system during the winter months that makes them vulnerable to colds and other infections."
The good news, however, is that there are changes you can make to your space and lifestyle to help lessen the affects of SAD. Check out Dr. Offner's great insights right here.
1First Things First, Try Out A Light Therapy Box
"Light therapy is an extremely well-established, 'first line' treatment for Seasonal affective disorder, leading to significant improvement or remission in at least half of people treated in most studies," says Dr. Offner. "For tips on choosing a light box, see the '10 point check list' on the website for Great Britain's Seasonal Affective Disorder Association."
This NatureBright SunTouch plus light has over 2,500 great reviews because it's 10,000-lux as well as negative ion, it filters out harmful UV light, and it helps to boost your mood and energy throughout the dark winter months. "Amazing for seasonal affective disorder!" says one reviewer. "I use it every morning for about 45 minutes, and have noticed a major difference in only a few days."
2Full-Spectrum Light Bulbs For The Quality Light You Need
According to Dr. Offner, another good option is "adding full-spectrum light bulbs," because it's "an affordable way to address SAD symptoms." This set of four Joyous Light full spectrum light bulbs gives you crisp, bright light that saves energy and helps you to get the quality spectrum you need when suffering from SAD. They also reduce eye strain and fatigue, and can even help with indoor plants.
3Try Good-Quality Oils For Aromatherapy
"Aromatherapy has long been used across cultures to promote healing; scented essential oils can relieve seasonal depression in a couple of ways," says Dr. Offner. "Certain natural plant oils are believed to stimulate the brain and endocrine system in a way that improves mood states. ... Popular scents for relieving SAD symptoms include lavender, rose, bergamot, lemongrass, and sandalwood."
This 14-oil Family Doctor essential oil set comes with fourteen plain oils and fourteen blends including stress relief, breathe, and relaxation. All of the aforementioned oils can be found in there, and this set is high-quality and pure. "Stick to those made from plants and steer clear of those that include synthetic substances," says Dr. Offner.
4Get Outside As Often As Possible
"Sitting in spaces within your home where there is the most natural light through the windows can help, as can making sure you spend time outside while the sun is shining," says Dr. Offner. "Running outside (if you live in a cold climate, wear extra thermal layers, hat and glove) allows you to get the benefits of both exercise and exposure to natural sunlight."
5Brighten Up Your Space With Something You Love
According to Dr. Offner, it helps to "invest in simple additions to your space that make it feel more welcoming and comforting," like a scented candle that helps to brighten your space. This set of two lavender jar candles uses 100 percent pure lavender essential oil (one of Dr. Offner's recommendations for aromatherapy) and each of them burn for up to 45 hours. They smell fresh, look great, and are sure to brighten up any space.
6Try To Exercise, Even If You Don't Feel Like It
"Exercise is now considered a powerful anti-depressant and is an excellent intervention for SAD," says Dr. Offner. "Needless to say, it can be very hard to muster the energy for a workout or run when you are depressed. If you can't drag yourself to the gym, try doing a series of jumping jacks, push-ups or rope jumping at home or in your office. And, if you can push yourself into a couple of workouts, the improvement you experience may motivate you to keep at it."
My go-to exercise (especially when I don't feel like it) is rebounding, because it burns as many calories as running, is way easier on the joints, flushes the lymph, and feels like a game. This Bounce & Burn mini trampoline is a great place to start, because it's strong, durable, extra bouncy, and folds up for convenient storage. It also comes with a fun workout DVD to get you motivated.
7Encourage Mindfulness With Daily Journaling
"Journaling can help you track patterns in your moods, enabling you to increase those activities (socializing, exercising, meditating) that have preceded improvements and decrease those activities (overeating, hibernating) that have preceded declines in your mood," says Dr. Offner. "Writing things out leads to better insight and understanding and often aids problem-solving."
The How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad) journal and workbook helps you to record your day and see things in a new light with creative and engaging prompts. It's a "trusted friend, creative outlet, security blanket, and secret diary" all in one, and reviewers say it's a great tool to encourage mindfulness.
8Replenish Your Vitamin D Levels
According to Dr. Offner, "Some researchers have found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and SAD (as well as depression more generally), so it may help to eat more foods high in vitamin D, including egg yolks, fortified dairy products and fortified cereal." This organic dandelion root tea comes in five boxes and is extremely high in vitamin D, along with other essential vitamins like A, C, and B complex. Reviewers say it tastes great and seriously helps their mood, and they love that it's got simple, organic ingredients.
9Get Your Sleep Schedule Back To Normal With Melatonin
"Melatonin, taken at bedtime, may also help some SAD sufferers because it helps return the sleep cycles, typically disrupted in SAD patients, to a more normal rhythm," says Dr. Offner. "Melatonin is available as an over-the-counter pill," and you can find it in just about any drugstore or natural health store.
10Prevent Mood Swings With Clean Eating
"Finally, as always, unprocessed whole foods are better than junk food," says Dr. Offner, "tempting/comforting as junk food may be! Whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein, keep our blood sugar levels steady and prevent the mood swings that can come from carbohydrate/sugar-induced blood sugar (and related mood) spikes and crashes." If you're looking for new and delicious ideas for clean eating recipes, this Clean Eating Made Simple cookbook is insanely simple, has 110 healthy recipes, and has some really cool features like a food list and how to adapt recipes for dietary restrictions.
11Consider Other Options From A Professional
"Other SAD treatments that can be combined with any/all of the above interventions include antidepressant medication, in particular Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These must be prescribed by a psychiatrist or primary care physician," says Dr.Offner. "Finally, psychotherapy can help — again, in combination with other treatments."
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