Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the medical translation of something many people mildly manage on an annual basis, the winter blues. Although many may consider SAD to be a lighter, less serious version of depression, it can be equally as severe if left untreated.
Usually, people affected by SAD experience general symptoms of depression, including difficulty sleeping or waking up. They may also undergo a change in their appetite. Depending on severity, they could see a slight change in mood, or in more serious cases experience thoughts of suicide. Other common symptoms of seasonal depression are feelings of heaviness, relationship issues, and a lack of energy.
Many people simply push through the winter months, especially if their symptoms are on the mild side. The most common treatment options consist of medications, psychotherapy, and making changes in lifestyle.
Especially in mild to moderate experiences with SAD, developing positive daily habits can have a substantial effect. In more serious cases of the winter blues, it is always best to seek the opinion of a medical professional. However, the following lifestyle changes can still provide supplemental support for getting through the season.
5 Methods to Prevent the Winter Blues
Some of the best ways to beat the winter blues are not expensive, not extraordinary, and don’t require exceptional resources. Beating them requires a little perseverance and a little planning, but all of the methods are easy to implement.
1. Light Therapy
For people with mild to moderate SAD symptoms or other depressive disorders, just going for a daily walk outside can have significant results. Push yourself just to get outside every day, no matter the weather. Even if it's cloudy, there is significantly more exposure to light when you are outside. Even bright, big, sunny windows have nothing on the light exposure you get in the great outdoors.
For more severe issues with SAD, there are other more technologically advanced methods to fulfill your biological light needs. Lightboxes have been used to treat depression for decades, and often with good results. Although they require an initial financial investment, they are also backed by scientific findings. Speak with a medical professional before purchasing one, as not all kinds of light therapy is beneficial for all mood disorders.
2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
It’s always a good idea to focus on daily exercise and healthy diet, but more so in the winter for people who typically fall prey to depression. A healthy body can have a significant impact on maintaining a healthy mind.
Exercise has long been known to be an excellent method of kicking depression, even if you can work out only a handful of times a week. Take it from us, your mind and body will thank you.
Diet also is increasingly linked to mental health. Junk food, fats, and sugars may provide a momentary lift in mood but can have many long-term effects on psychological well-being.
3. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Positive people make for a positive daily experience. It's very important to have people to rely on, who can lift you up when you are down. We’ve all encountered that one friend who seems to bring us down in our time of need. It’s best to distance yourself from negative people when you need cheering up most, during the winter months. Don't forget that happiness is contagious!
4. Make a Plan before Winter
It’s that those with a SAD diagnosis make positive lifestyle changes before the winter blues hit. Create good habits early. Take up an outdoor activity, start a big creative project, or join a social group. These can help you maintain a sense of purpose when the darkness begins to set in.
Maintaining focus and participating in weekly social activities are important ways to prevent feelings of isolation and distance from taking control. Because it can be hard to make lifestyle changes during the depths of depression, it's a good idea to work ahead of yourself.
5. Take a Daily CBD Oil Supplement
Cannabidiol is a secret weapon against SAD. This all-natural supplement is well-known to have positive benefits for mood, but several of its other medicinal characteristics also lend themselves to combatting wintertime blues.
For one, scientific study has shown that CBD oil can boost mood and fight depression. It stimulates growth of new neurons within the prefrontal cortex. Reduction in the size of this area has been found in the brains of depressed people. Cannabidiol has also been found in initial trials to boost the transmission of serotonin.
Another common attribute to winter blues is an overlaying sense of anxiety and dread. Waking up in the morning can be one of the most challenging aspects of the day. Anxiety relief is another therapeutic benefit of daily CBD supplementation. An increasing number of studies have found potent anti-anxiety properties in CBD. That is something I can personally attest to, and you can read more about it here.
Finally, CBD may be the little boost you need every day to stimulate a healthy appetite and provide a dose of relaxation at night to help you fall asleep. People with SAD often take on unhealthy eating habits, and they may also have difficulty sleeping. Cannabidiol has many beneficial properties that could reduce the many symptoms of SAD.
Seek Professional Medical Advice
It goes without saying that SAD is a complicated mental health issue. Just because light therapy works for some people doesn’t mean it will have the same beneficial impact for you. The five methods described above are parts of a larger puzzle. If you feel that your experience with SAD requires professional assistance, it's always very important that you seek help early on. Bring this list to your doctor or therapist, and work with him or her to develop the perfect plan of attack for beating your winter blues this season.
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