Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, seasonal depression or seasonal mood disorder. Commonly referred to as the ‘winter blues’, SAD is a type of depression occurring in response to the change of season, predominantly during the autumn and winter months when days are shorter and there’s less natural sunlight. The good news is, it usually lifts during spring and summer.
People with SAD develop a predictable set of symptoms. They have difficulty waking up in the morning, their energy levels decrease and they tend to eat more, particularly sugars and starches, which can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Concentration levels can also decrease and they may withdraw from family and friends. On top of this, their work and relationships can suffer, cumulating in them becoming quite depressed.
Shed some light on it… Research suggests over 60 per cent of SAD sufferers benefit from light therapy. Along with light therapy, psychotherapy and medication are the main treatments.
During light therapy, white fluorescent lights are placed behind a plastic diffusing screen to filter out ultraviolet rays. Most effective in the morning, individuals tend to respond within two to four days.
While the amount of time required varies, 30 to 90 minutes (10,000 lux) of light therapy per day usually does the trick.
Tune in… Listening to some tunes for one or two hours each week can enhance a person’s psychological wellbeing, particularly in the elderly.
Good mood foods… Consuming foods high in ‘tryptophan’ can help elevate your mood. It’s found in chicken, milk, eggs, turkey, cheese, salmon, tofu, nuts and seeds. Tryptophan boosts serotonin levels in your brain, believed to act as a mood stabiliser.
Move and groove… Regular exercise will also increase serotonin, and research confirms that regular exercise can have antidepressant effects.
Tips to avoid the winter blues… As the syndrome is linked to a lack of light, people affected by SAD may become depressed at other times of the year when light is reduced. That means it’s important to work and live in environments where there’s plenty of light.
Make sure you step outdoors during daylight hours to ‘inhale’ some sunshine, help you get your daily intake of vitamin D, boost serotonin levels, and help you get a good night’s sleep. A lunchtime walk with some tunes along the way – I’m thinking Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and The Waves.
It goes without saying – that making time for regular exercise (movement) and managing stress will not only improve your mood, but it is essential for general good health.
To help motivate you to move a little, why not download an App on your phone to track ‘time on feet’, kilometres, steps and even calories burned. Alternately, you might want to invest in a Fitbit – whatever motivates you, moving is the goal.
Taking an optimistic outlook on life and social interactions can significantly boost serotonin. Throw in some Uptown Girl by Billy Joel and you’ll definitely be on the right track.
And finally, listening to some guided meditation before bed and/or in the morning can do wonders for your mood and there are some great, free meditation podcasts available. You can also check out Apps like Smiling Mind’ and ‘Headspace, available on iTunes and Google Play.
May you ‘smile’your way through winter xx