8 Mood-Boosting Tips to Help Soothe Seasonal Affective Disorder
If your smile seems to be drooping along with the temperature, it’s probably not your imagination. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a reaction to reduced sunlight, affects about five percent of Americans, according to the American Psychiatric Association—and it is more common in women than in men. Lethargy, overeating, and being sad can spell disaster for your health. But don’t let the shorter days and colder nights get you down: Check out these science-backed ways to beat SAD and feel better.
Take a sunny stroll
Go walking in a winter wonderland! Sunlight-drenched strolls help clear your SAD symptoms by giving you a boost of vitamin D, which most of our bodies are craving (especially in gray weather). Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, and a 2018 study from the Journal of Headache and Pain shows that a vitamin D deficiency may cause cluster headaches in the fall and winter.
Shed some light
The dark gloom of winter dampens your body’s production of serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Rejuvenate your serotonin stores with a light box that features blue light-emitting diodes. They’re more stimulating and produce less glare than white light boxes. For a simpler fix, open up the blinds! Just make sure you’re keeping your bright light exposure to the morning hours; lots of light late in the day can mess with your circadian sleep cycles.
We know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to hibernate until spring. Walking naturally exposes you to natural sunlight, which can help stave off the winter blues. Too cold to work out outdoors? Try these at-home ab workouts.
Pump up your produce
The secret to happiness may be at the end of your fork. People who experience SAD or are depressed tend to crave sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods, but overeating these foods have unhealthy consequences. Instead, stock up on these SAD-busting foods, which include, salmon, leafy greens, and whole grains to help brighten your days.
If your mood needs to be soothed, consider a chamomile supplement. A 2016 study from Phytomedicine shows that chamomile extract can help reduce generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.
Try a new sport
Get excited about winter by taking up a seasonal hobby like ice skating, skiing or snowboarding, says psychologist Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, author of the bookA Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. Having something fun to look forward to will help elevate your mood during the cold-weather doldrums.
Lend a helping hand
Look for volunteer opportunities where you can make a difference, Lombardo suggests. Collect coats for the homeless, conduct a toy drive for needy children, or spend time volunteering at an animal shelter during the holiday rush. Philanthropic work is a well-documented mood improver, she says.
SAD-proof your surroundings
You may not be able to control the weather around you, but you can control your own environment, says psychotherapist and wellness expert Jenny Giblin, MFT. Simple switches like painting your walls a brighter or lighter color, buying colorful office supplies, hanging inspiring artwork, and changing the background of your computer to a beachy scene can lift your spirits.
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