There is hope for even the worst Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferer, though you may not have even realized that there was a name for what you have been experiencing. Like clockwork, as the cold weather creeps in, so does your depression.
You are not alone. There are many others out there who experience the same mood fluctuations that you do, and there is something you can do to improve your mood and get through those long, dark winters.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects roughly 5 percent of Americans. SAD is a form of depression where one’s mood fluctuates with the change of the seasons – or at least the gradual shift to days when it’s colder and darker for longer periods of time.
With the diminished sunlight that accompanies the fall and winter months, SAD sufferers exhibit symptoms of lethargy, increased appetite for comfort foods and a lackadaisical disposition toward activities that they normally enjoy – the classic symptoms of depression. SAD differs from “regular” depression, in that it occurs notably during the shift from summer to fall to winter.
Because the northern states experience marked differences from one season to the next (sunny, rainy, windy, cold as the seasons change) – as opposed to southern states which may experience bright and sunny weather year-round – people who live in the north are more likely to suffer from SAD.
Yes, There is Hope
Daylight – It may seem hard to believe that something as simple as more sunlight or concentrated light could solve the majority of your SAD issues. However, studies show that exposure to daylight (actually going outside) for about 15 minutes a day during the early morning hours between 6 and 8 a.m. can significantly alter your mood for the better.
Even keeping your curtains pulled back and your blinds and/or windows open to allow more sunlight in can perk you up quite a bit. Science has proven that significant sunlight on a daily basis boosts the production of serotonin in the brain, which keeps you alert, energized and in better spirits. You owe this to yourself if you live with depression.
Light Therapy – Natural lighting works best, but you can also achieve similar results using light therapy. Light therapy involves the use of powerfully concentrated, artificial light (between 2,000 and 5,000 lux) that is bright enough to jolt you awake just like the sunlight peeking through your windows in the morning.
Because artificial light isn’t as strong as regular sunlight, you will need to soak up more of it for a longer period of time in order to be sufficient – probably up to an hour. Just an hour a day for a week or two should get you out of the slump you’re in.
St. John’s Wort – Rather than try a prescription antidepressant, ask your doctor about St. John’s wort, the herb that works just like an antidepressant drug. You can purchase this herb without a prescription from your local health food store, but be patient as the herb works slowly and may take a couple weeks before it makes a significant impact.