This is the time of year where many people are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). We are heading into winter, it is dark and cold when we leave for work and it is dark and cold when we get home from work. We may not be not as active, we are not getting enough sunlight, or maybe you are one who just have an overall hate on for winter.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs due to the change of seasons and it usually begins at the same time of year. For some it starts in the fall and lasts until spring. And for others, it will begin early January and lasts until spring.
How do you know if you are experiencing SAD and not just a bad week?
You will begin to feel your energy levels go down each and every day, you will experience every day moodiness, consistent irritability and on a daily basis you will feel like you can’t seem to get control of your emotions. “Why do I want to cry right now?!” Your sleep will suffer, you won’t be able to concentrate, and you might even lose interest in your favourite activities.
But don’t worry, there are so many things you can do to prevent and/or minimize SAD. I recommend not just sweeping this under the rug, waiting for summer to arrive. If this resonates with you, take steps to minimize these symptoms and keep your energy and happiness levels high.
Please note: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek out help from a professional. Do not try and do it alone.
Here are some things you can begin doing to minimize SAD.
Make your environment sunnier and brighter. When you can, open the blinds and let the natural light in.
Exercise regularly. This increases your happy chemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, which in turn will reduce any symptoms caused by SAD. Exercise not only improves our mood but it also reduces anxiety and stress, both of which can worsen depression. Take a yoga class, do an online workout or dance to your favorite song. Shoot for at least 30 minutes per day, 3-4 days per week. You will feel so much better if you move consistently.
Take a good quality Vitamin D. Most doctors recommend at least 1,000 IU’s of vitamin D2 or D3 daily in winter months, and more (up to 5,000 IU’s) if you’re heading into winter already low. There are two types of vitamin D: D2 and D3. D2 is plant-based and D3 is almost always animal-based. Most research has shown that vitamin D3 is more efficiently absorbed compared with vitamin D2, so you may want to choose vitamin D3 to get the most out of your supplement – this decision is totally up to you.
Omega-3’s can help maintain healthy levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitters) that increase happiness and reduce symptoms of depression.
Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun when it is sunny outside. Exposure to outdoor light is still important so try to get outside daily for at least 10 minutes. Yes, even when it is cloudy. Light still pokes through and this increases both your serotonin and dopamine levels, which as I mentioned above, both assist in upping your happiness levels.
Light therapy may also be an option for you. There are many lamps that you can place conveniently right on your desk.
This winter season, get proactive and begin today to turn that frown upset down. Begin with the vitamin D, and start incorporating the other tips into your weekly routine.
Laurie-ann Sheldrick, The Contagiously Positive Girl