As the Sun sets earlier and the days get drearier, some people find their moods changing along with the seasons. The dreary winter blues could be much more than a reluctance to be out in the biting cold. This condition is a subset of depression that affects a small but significant number of people, and can range from mild to severe. But how do you fight seasonal affective disorder, short of packing up and moving to a tropical island?
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, typically happens as fall transitions to winter. Though its exact cause is unclear, it's likely related to the scarcity of sunlight (though it can hit in the scorching summertime, too). Winter SAD is associated with oversleeping, overeating, and withdrawal from social activities, symptoms that affect about 6 percent of people in America. The farther away from the equator, the higher the incidences of seasonal affective disorder in the population.
But there are ways to get around that. Researchers are constantly looking for ways to treat seasonal affective disorder and some studies have suggested various rates of success. They may not quite be able to keep the forces of nature at bay, but they could help keep your spirits up during the dark, cold months.
Light therapy is a timed, daily exposure to bright, artificial light. It's a treatment you can do at home by sitting close to a light box (available for purchase on the Internet) with your eyes open. Researchers have found light therapy to be a rather successful treatment for those with SAD.
Vitamin D's the stuff you get when your skin absorbs the Sun's rays. Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to depression, so consuming it in capsule form could be a way to combat the literal lack of sunshine in your life.
Exercising releases endorphins and reduces stress, thus improving your mood and increasing your energy. Plus, if you keep at it all winter, come warmer weather, you'll be in tip-top shape.
A new study that pitted light therapy against talk therapy showed that the latter seemed to be more effective. Researchers used cognitive behavioral therapy to teach people to fight negative thoughts in the winter and to avoid behaviors that bring them down, such as isolating themselves.
The preventative treatment had longer-term effects and gave participants a sense of control over their moods, according to Health.com.
Sometimes you just don't feel like hanging out, but spending some quality, sometimes goofy, time with your friends can be a huge picker-upper. Whether you're watching Netflix while cradling cups of cocoa or sticker-tattooing each other, the more the merrier.
Cover image via iStock / kneiane