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Seasonal Affective Disorder | Make Your Winter Healthier, Happier

Today’s post is a guest post by Mary Thomsen. Mary writes about just about any topic, having spent 20-plus years as a community newspaper reporter, editor and owner. She also does freelance writing for blogs and has a particular interest in human interest stories and those promoting general well being.

Feeling Down and Sad In Winter? 4 Actions That Relieve Sad Affective Disorder

When cold winds blow and lights come on in late afternoon, it’s natural to feel sad about the end of summer. If you can’t shake the blahs for more than one season, however, you might suffer from seasonal affective disorder, often called S.A.D. or SAD.

Doctors have no test to diagnose this sad affective disorder, but you can act to decide if you have it and find your way out of the depression it causes. Research first pointed to the disorder in 1984, leading to the birth of light therapy, championed by Norman Rosenthal. Subsequent studies suggest there is more to curing SAD than following the light.

Action requires some detective work and lifestyle changes to beat SAD, which affects more women than men and hits especially hard in northern climates with short winter days.

Action No. 1: Determine If It’s Really SAD

If sad depression sets in as summer ends and the pattern continues more than a year or two, the feelings may be linked to winter. Symptoms, including feeling sad, mimic depression: fatigue, unhappiness, irritability and inability to focus on tasks. People with SAD typically sleep more and may eat too many starchy foods, leading to extra pounds.

If changes in behavior and mood truly wax in fall and winter and wane in spring and summer, it’s time to seek help. Ignoring this disorder may trigger a true depression with lasting physical and mental health effects.

Action No. 2–Breathe Better Air

Look to the air we breathe when deciding how to treat SAD. Everyone needs air, but the simple act of buttoning up the house for winter traps dirt and other contaminants inside, where we all spend much time. Getting the junk out of the air can help relieve the symptoms of the disorder, researchers are finding.

  • Using an air purifier leads to a more healthful indoor environment, which can help stop SAD in its tracks. Here are some ways to start:
  • Take control of the air: A first step is to look for good air purifiers to start the process off right.
  • Do the research: Read reviews to learn about recommended air purifiers to decide which one will give the most benefits.

Action No. 3: Get Into the Light

Light therapy has the longest history of any treatment for the symptoms of SAD. It works on the theory that human bodies follow a 24-hour circadian rhythm that requires adequate light exposure to keep us on an even keel.

Some tips to let light help:

  • Get treated with fluorescent light: Light therapy involves using a 10,000-lux fluorescent light for 30 minutes each day. Alternative lights offer half the power, but require the person to sit under it for 60 minutes.
  • Follow the directions: If you buy a special light to help treat SAD, follow the directions that come in the package for length of exposure, time of day to use it and how far to sit from it.

Action No. 4: Eat Better and Move More

Everyone needs a good diet and enough exercise to feel well, but those suffering from depression, including SAD, require it even more. Staying active and eating right can boost mood and help fight symptoms of the seasonal blues.

Some tips for staying healthy:

  • Spend at least 15 minutes outdoors each day, even in the winter, to allow your body to absorb the vitamin D in sunlight, which can greatly boost well-being and emotions.
  • Make sure your diet includes enough vitamin D, especially if you live in the north, where sun exposure is lacking.
  • Keep active and eat a nutritious diet.

Following these lifestyle and health changes and understanding the dynamics of SAD can help those who suffer every winter find a better quality of life. Remember, the better you breathe, move, eat and enjoy the light, the happier and healthier your winters can become.

Mary Thomsen writes about just about any topic, having spent 20-plus years as a community newspaper reporter, editor and owner. She also does freelance writing for blogs and has a particular interest in human interest stories and those promoting general well being.

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