Self-Help Strategies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder(SAD) — also known as the winter blues or winter depression — is a seasonal but serious disorder that impacts many people with the changing of the seasons (from fall into winter, or from spring into summer). Luckily there are a number of effective treatment options for anyone who is suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
Research has found that the majority of those suffering from the winter blues experienced relief solely from the regular use of light boxes. Light boxes emit high intensities of light of 2,500 to 10,000 lux (as compared to a normal light fixture that emits 250 to 500 lux) and produce similar effects to the sun’s natural rays. The high intensities of light improve the mood of those suffering from the winter blues because they restrict the secretion of melatonin in the brain.
These boxes are best used daily and in the early morning for periods of 30 minutes to two hours. Depending on the severity of the winter blues case, most people find their symptoms are gone after just 2 weeks of use. Light boxes may or may not be covered by your insurance plan, so be sure to your Plan provider.
Exercise and its benefits for the blues
Exercise has proven to help people combat feeling of the blues in the winter. Not only does exercise improve mood, but it also has been shown to reduce stress, which often exacerbates feelings of depression brought on by the winter blues.
Studies have pointed out that one hour doing aerobic exercise outside (even with a cloudy skies overhead) had the same benefits as 2.5 hours of light treatment indoors. Aerobic exercise can help a person rid themselves of the feelings of depression. Briskly walking, taking a run, skiing, sledding and having a snowball fight have all be proven to help suffers of the blues feel better.
Many people who suffer from the winter blues crave junk food and soft drinks as the days get shorter. The reason some people indulge in high-sugar foods is because carbohydrates are often effective in increasing energy levels in the brain.
A better strategy for anyone with the winter blues would be to eat larger portions of complex carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, and healthy simple carbohydrates like fruits and fruit juices during meals. Also, stay away from unhealthy snacks that will cause momentary relief, but ultimately decrease energy and increases weight gain for many. Increased weight gain may also lower a person’s self-esteem, worsening one’s depression.