By Katie Bowman
As the world begins to transition into winter, several people may start to feel the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or ‘SAD’.
SAD is a type of depression that occurs in the colder months of the year. Studies suggest that the changes throughout autumn and winter, such as less daylight, colder temperatures and changes in routine, can disrupt the body’s internal clock and affect the part of the brain that makes mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin.
The main symptoms of SAD include sleeping more than usual, gaining weight, feeling irritable and anxious, experiencing low mood and finding it hard to concentrate.
Scientists aren’t completely sure why SAD occurs and have admitted that more research into the disorder needs to be completed. However, there are plenty of simple and affordable self-help treatments that are recommended to manage the symptoms.
Recovery from SAD may take time, but creating healthy habits and taking time to relax means that you will likely feel better every day.
Tip 1: Exercise regularly
Exercise is a great way to combat seasonal depression as it can boost endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin; doctors even prescribe exercise as a treatment for depression in some cases. Exercises that are continuous and rhythmic such as swimming, yoga and walking, have scientifically been proven to have the best effects when done for 30 to 60 minutes.
Tip 2: Spend time with light
Light therapy is a powerful way to incorporate getting enough light into every day. Lightboxes produce a bright light that have the same effects as natural sunlight. Dr Cassano from Harvard Health explains that “even if you do not yet have the clinical signs and symptoms of SAD, using light therapy during the winter may help prevent it”. Light therapy theorises that keeping the lightbox on in the background of a room for 30 minutes in a morning can improve a person’s mood.
Also, taking 10 minutes from each day to connect with nature in the daylight is an excellent opportunity to receive natural sunlight.
Tip 3: Connect with family and friends
Studies show that many people worry about discussing their feelings in case they are not understood or taken seriously. However, talking to trusted family members and friends is important when taking charge of mental wellbeing. Being listened to helps many people feel supported and less overwhelmed, especially with symptoms caused by SAD.