Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Sunday, January 12, 2020
With Winter in full force many people suffer from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the low mood and lethargy that is experienced with limited sunlight in the northern states. There is another version of SAD, but I'm only focusing on what works for those of us dealing with the limited sunlight in the north.
Through the years of dealing with it, I have found what works for me.
1. No sunglasses in the morning. I commute to my job which means I'm on the road in the AM. I get to see the sun come up. I heard once years ago to limit the use of sunglasses in the morning. The reasoning was that our eyes absorb sunlight through our retinas. Sunlight is important for us. It helps bring up our mood and gives us energy. We get vitamin D from sunlight. Getting a good dose of sunlight is important. If you can, get outside for 20 minutes of sunlight preferably in the morning. I don't have time to get the 20 minutes outside, so I try to get what I can while driving. Of course if there is glare that can impair your driving, you need to wear the sunglasses. Remember to be safe on the road.
2. Wearing colorful clothing and surrounding myself with color, as much as possible. I believe the psychology of color. I began the practice of wearing colors in the Winter. I especially like the blues and yellows. They bring up my mood.
3. Get out as much as you can. This goes back to the sunlight, but also it goes back to we tend to feel better when we are out and active.
4. Food and Diet. I am very careful about my diet during the Winter. After Christmas it is easy to fall into the latest fast weight loss hack. I've learned that to healthy and happy, I have to eat a balanced diet of whole foods and practice clean eating. Cutting out whole food groups don't work. When we cut out food groups we don't get all the nutrients we need for brain health and well being. Years ago I was doing a low carb plan that was popular. I was on their site and had a group of friends that was doing the same diet. Part of the diet was a phase that was extremely low in the carbs. It's easy to stay on the lowest carb level because the weight seems to come off better. But, something interesting happened. I became very depressed and so did some of the friends I was doing the plan with. When I added in more carbs and whole grains, my depression subsided. Something we don't think about is the brain chemical serotonin is actually found in our gut. I learned that first here at Sparkpeople and now read it in much of the professional literature I read. So, if we aren't getting the nutrients to boost serotonin we will be operating at a deficit.
5. Cut the sugar, simple carbs and white flour. Goes back to what we are putting in our bodies that will help our brains. I love the concept of food as medicine.
6. Exercise. Move more. I do the 5% Challenge. I find the challenge keeps me on track with exercise, even when I am tired. Over Christmas I found myself not exercising because I had low energy. Now, I am building back up. You will feel better with even ;moderate activity. Some of my activity is going to a big store like Walmart and just walking around at the end of the day before I drive home. No, I'm not working up a sweat, but I am moving and getting steps which is important.
7. Positive thoughts and mindfulness. This one is something I started working on a couple of years ago. I found I was always waiting for Spring. I decided that I needed to live in the present moment rather than live for Spring and Summer. So, I try to make myself see the same beauty in the scenery when I am driving. I also try to work on positive thoughts. It takes work.
8. Cooking and other projects. It is important to learn new things. I got an instant pot this Fall and Winter. I am learning how to use it and adapt my recipes. It keeps me doing new things and staying in the moment. I think that is why doing goals or resolutions can be helpful, if you see them as long term and something you continue to work at.
There are other things you can do. I keep my curtains and shades open during the day. I find sometimes getting out of my comfort zone helps. Also, a light box. My husband got one this past Christmas. It is something I haven't used yet, but my husband is liking it. And talk therapy is always helpful.
And always if you find your SAD goes to serious levels with thoughts of self harming, please get help immediately. Go the ER, talk to your doctor or a therapist.
Winter will end and it will be Spring sooner than you think. These are things that I do to occupy me and my thoughts while it's Winter. What are some things you've tried that help?