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According to American Family Physician, about 6% of all people may have winter-related seasonal depression, and another 10% to 20% may suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Although many people turn to therapy and even prescription medications, there are a few ways you can combat the seasonal blues on your own.
Some researchers blame the lack of sunlight for seasonal depression and SAD, and they’ve had some luck with asking their patients to open blinds and curtains wherever possible to enjoy the sunlight that does exist during the winter months. In fact, there’s also some evidence to suggest that soaking up a little vitamin D from the morning sun may improve depression symptoms immediately, and the effects may last throughout the day.
With shorter days comes less sunlight, and with less sunlight comes less time to do the things you really love. It’s important to keep to your normal schedule and routine as much as possible, though. Remember that your body relies on its circadian rhythm, and when that rhythm gets thrown off, you’ll feel it in terms of energy loss and, in some cases, even depression. Keeping yourself busy by following your normal routine – and by making time for your favorite hobbies and activities – is vital to combatting seasonal depression.
Although exercising might be the very last thing you want to do when you’re battling the blues, it may be the best course of action. A study published in the College of Sports Medicine Journal back in 2013 showed that exercise releases endorphins, which are just as powerful as (if not more powerful than) antidepressants and/or therapy for treating SAD and seasonal depression.
There are two main theories as to why taking a trip can help to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal depression. First, it takes you away from work and the stresses of home, which is powerful on its own. Second, if you travel south where the temps are warmer and the sunshine is abundant, that extra warmth and vitamin D will undoubtedly do your body and your mind some good.
Therapists often recommend a variety of relaxation techniques to help alleviate the anxiety that sometimes comes with seasonal depression or SAD. Some studies have proven that yoga is a powerful tool, but the real shock value comes from the studies done on meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness exercises. It’s been shown that these can change neural pathways, which allows more “happy” chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to flow freely.
Multiple studies conducted around the world have shown that the countries consuming the highest amounts of sugar – including the United States – also have the highest depression rates. The hypothesis is that all of that sugar counteracts the body’s natural ability to deal with stress, and it may actually make symptoms of anxiety worse. Unchecked anxiety often leads to severe depression, too, so cutting back on your sugar consumption may make a tremendous difference in your mood (and your waistline, as a bonus).
Seasonal depression ranges from mild to severe. For some people, the winter blues are just a part of life; for others, they’re downright debilitating. These six tips can help you boost your mood tremendously, and many of them provide a wealth of other health benefits at the same time.