Have you been feeling a bit down lately? Perhaps you’re less motivated, more easily irritated, or constantly fatigued? If so, seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), could be to blame. Seasonal depression is believed to be caused by the decrease in sunlight during the wintertime, which leads to a decrease in serotonin — a chemical in the body that aids with mood regulation. And while you can’t make the sun stay out longer, there are steps you can take to counter symptoms of SAD.
1. Chase the Light
Sure, it’s less sunny during the winter months, but unless you live in Alaska, there are still plenty of hours for you to catch some rays — it may just require you to get up a bit earlier. If your busy schedule won’t allow you to take 15 or 20 minutes to take a stroll outside, try waking up a bit earlier and go on a walk. Not only is this great for your physical health, but it will also allow your body to absorb the light it needs. If you absolutely can’t spend more time outdoors, try getting light in other ways, such as by moving your desk closer to the window or getting a light therapy box.
2. Get Some Vitamin D
Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which means that you may become deficient during the winter months. Because vitamin D affects serotonin levels, a decrease in vitamin D can result in symptoms of depression. Fortunately, sunlight is not the only way you can get vitamin D. You can also get it through foods such as salmon, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified milk and cereals. If fitting these foods into your meals is too challenging, vitamin D supplements are also an option.
3. Catch Some Zzz
Many people who suffer from seasonal depression have difficulty sleeping. And because a lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of depression, you need to find ways to get the rest you need. Sticking to a sleep schedule can help you with this. Being consistent about what time you go to bed reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, consider doing these tips:
- Stop using your phone, computer, and tv for at least one hour before bedtime.
- Avoid eating heavy meals before you go to sleep.
- Start exercising in the mornings.
4. Escape Your Normal Routine
The gloomy weather can make everything seem drab and uninspiring, leaving you feeling stuck. But sometimes a getaway is all you need to snap out of that funk. Getting a break from your everyday life and routine can help stimulate your happiness. So, if you can, take this opportunity to take a vacation to a sunny destination that will provide you with both a change of scenery and the sun rays you need. Know that you don’t have to travel overseas to get the benefits of a vacation. Even spending a day exploring parts of your city you’ve never been to before can make a difference in your mood.
5. Improve Your Environment
Who and what you surround yourself with has a tremendous impact on your mental well-being, which is why you need to surround yourself with positivity. If there is anyone in your life who is constantly pessimistic or angry, their energy will rub off on you. Try to limit your time around them and instead spend time with positive people. Similarly, evaluate your physical surroundings and look for ways in which you can bring joy into them. It could be something as simple as adding a burst of color or bringing in plants into your home. Revamping your environment will not only give you something fun to do but help you keep your spirits up during these darker months.
While you may not be able to eliminate all feelings of depression, applying these tips can significantly help. Know that you may still have days when you feel down, and that is completely normal. However, if you notice that you are feeling down more often than not or experience severe symptoms of depression, such as thoughts of suicide or not being able to care for yourself, then it is time to ask for help.