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November 4, 2014

Feeling SAD? 4 Ways to Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Darkness.

*DisclaimerElephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.

 

Daylight Savings Time has ended and like many, I am not too happy about it.

A post on my social media newsfeed neatly summed up the feelings of many: “Goodbye Daylight Saving Time, hello seasonal depression disorder”. All chuckling aside, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is nothing to joke about.

SAD affects approximately half a million people each year between September and April. The peak months for it are December, January, and February. While anyone can get it, women are more likely to suffer from it than men and most sufferers fall between the ages of 15 and 55. (Those of us with a close family member with SAD are also more likely to come down with it.)

While some just shrug off it as “the blues” the fact is that SAD should be taken seriously. If left untreated, SAD can lead to insomnia, weight gain, and irritability. In very severe cases, it may even lead to suicide attempts.

Therefore, much like any other mood disorder, those suffering from SAD or suspecting they have it should seek medical treatment.

However, there are some simple steps we can take to try and reduce our risk of developing SAD. Read below for 5 tips:

1. Get outside.

While the cooler months can make many of us want to retreat indoors, it’s important to get out in the daylight. Those of us who are lucky to have a hour or more lunch break may want to consider spending part of it outdoors.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, even going outdoors on cold or cloudy days is helpful.

If you hate the cold, then learn the art of layering and/or invest in some good outdoor clothing. Buy the best you can. You’re worth it.

2. Get some (more) sunlight.

While most of us hear the above and automatically think that this means go outside, it’s important to make our indoor environments as sunny as possible. Open up the blinds, replace heavy, dark curtains with lighter ones or consider taking them down for the winter. If you’re a homeowner, then consider trimming away any tree branches that may be blocking light. (If you rent, then ask your landlord. Even if you have to do or pay or it yourself, it may well be worth it.)

Also, it doesn’t hurt to make our living spaces appear more cheerful.

Now might be the time to buy a colorful throw rug or put a bright-colored quilt on the bed. The use of color therapy is well-documented. Plus, it can be a nice way to welcome the cooler, darker months. (After all, they’re here whether we like them or not. We may as well as accept that.)

3. Exercise.

Exercise is helpful for a lot of things and SAD is no exception. Not only can it release endorphins-those “feel good” chemicals in the brain-but can reduce stress and anxiety-two things that greatly increase the symptoms of SAD. Plus, exercising may help us look better physically and there is no denying the link between looking better and feeling better.

4. Consider buying a light box.

Light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for SAD.

Light boxes range in price from around $50 to a few hundred and may be purchased online from a variety of retailers.

However, before you buy, you may want to talk to your doctor first. This is especially important if you happen to suffer from any vision disorders or have diabetes. Even if you don’t have any pre-existing conditions, a doctor or healthcare provider can advise you on which model to buy that’s best your needs. (In some cases, the cheapest one may not be the best bargain.)

In closing, SAD can make even the most positive amongst us to feel, well, sad, but we need not suffer. There are ways to keep it at bay or even if we do happen to come down with it, treatment is available.

In any case, it’s important not to just dismiss it as “inenvitable” or “just the blues.” It’s neither and  like many diseases, the sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. Therefore, don’t be SAD this fall and winter-fight back.

 

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Author: Kimberly Lo  

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Alis La Luna at Pixoto 

 

 

 

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