3 Effective Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment Options This Winter
In late fall, as the mercury dips and daylight decreases, many people experience feelings of depression, but find that their symptoms improve in the spring and summer. This condition, known as seasonal affective disorder, is aptly abbreviated as SAD and disproportionately impacts women and young adults. If you or someone you know struggles with seasonal depression, here are a few self-help tips to combat the winter blues.
Because seasonal depression disorder is caused by decreases in natural light, light therapy can provide considerable relief. It’s important to use a high-intensity lightbox (which you can buy without a prescription) that emits 2,500 to 10,000 lux. (To put that in perspective, a typical bulb emits between 250 and 500 lux). Additionally, make sure your lightbox doesn’t release UV rays. Lightboxes are most effective when they’re used early in the morning. Nighttime light therapy may cause insomnia. Some people pair light therapy with psychotherapy to help them adopt more positive mindsets for coping with seasonal depression disorder.
Fight Winter Depression With a Healthy Diet
People with seasonal affective disorder often report an increase in appetite and tend to crave foods high in starch and sugar. Instead of indulging in sodas and unhealthy snacks, it’s best to consume foods rich in complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice) and simple carbohydrates (fruits and fruit juices). Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds, soybeans, and various types of fish) and Vitamin D (eggs, wild-caught salmon, and mushrooms) can also help to boost your mood. If you have difficulty getting adequate nutrients through diet alone, consider supplementation.
Winter Blues Option: Exercise
Regular exercise can sometimes be just as beneficial as light therapy or a counseling session when it comes to turning the tide on seasonal affective disorder. Exercise is especially effective when it’s done outside, allowing your body to reap the benefits of natural light. Regular physical activity is linked to higher levels of “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, namely serotonin, and dopamine. Exercise also reduces stress and tension, contributing to an improved sense of well-being.
SAD Symptoms Treatment
If SAD symptoms become so severe that they affect your ability to function, it may be necessary to seek treatment. Chicago Behavioral Hospital offers comprehensive mental health services for adults suffering from seasonal depression. Care plans may include in-patient therapy, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient counseling.