Aww yeah. The clocks have fallen back and now your mood’s all out of whack. Whether you deal with the full-blown effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or you’re just predisposed to the good ol’ winter blues, you know this time of year all too well… and you probably can’t stand it.
You wouldn’t be alone. SAD—which scientists say is caused by biochemical changes in the brain that are triggered by winter’s shorter and darker days—affects nearly 10 million Americans. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), symptoms include depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, and change in appetite (what up, carbs?). Throw in decreased energy and increased need for sleep, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for “mannn, f*ck all this sh*t.“
And perhaps that’s how you’ve gone about things the past few chilly seasons, but that doesn’t have to be you this year. Why? Because solutions exist and we’re looking out for you. Read on for a few tips to making this fall and winter a bit brighter.
Follow the Light
This means getting up at the asscrack of dawn. Yes, we know the sun now rises at 6:30 a.m., but with it setting by the time you leave your office (what kind of f*ckery?), trust us—it’s beneficial. Shorter days means you’re going to want to take advantage of all the daylight you possibly can, especially on cloudy days. So do your dopamine-deficient self the favor and wake up when the sun does.
Pro-tip: if you’ve been clinically diagnosed with SAD, consider talking to your doctor about copping a light therapy box. While they may not be suitable for everyone (folks with a history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder may suffer an “exaggerated response” to light boxes and should definitely consult their doctor first), these bad boys come packed with 10,000 LUX. That’s enough to mimic the mood-boosting effects of the sun! They’re typically used in the morning on days during which the sun’s not so bright, so it’s great to have bedside for when your alarm goes off. There’s even such thing as a sunrise clock, which is basically light therapy meets your standard alarm clock. Innovation.
Make a Move
Congratulations! You woke up early and only hit snooze once. Now it’s time to get from under your weighted blanket and get some blood flowing through your body. Research shows that exercise eases symptoms of both anxiety and depression, even if it’s just a quick walk to the grocery store. Hellooo, endorphins.
“Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms,” writes Mayo Clinic, though you can do as little as 10 to 15 and still be good to go. “It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or bicycling,” they add, so try break a sweat when you can, and aim to create a routine you can keep up with to reap consistent results.
Now Talk It Out *Unk Voice*
Eff what stigma says. Having a therapist is really f*cking cool, and it’s especially beneficial if you deal with SAD. In fact, a 2015 study discovered that psychotherapy (a fancy word for talk therapy) might actually be better than light treatment when it comes to managing SAD. During the study—which was spearheaded by psychology professor Kelly Rohan of the University of Vermont in Burlington—177 people with SAD received six weeks of treatment with either light therapy or talk therapy.
“In the first winter after initial treatment, both groups had similar relief from symptoms of depression associated with SAD, the findings showed,” WebMD reported. “However, two winters after initial treatment, recurrence of depression symptoms occurred in 46 percent of those in the light therapy group, compared with only 27 percent of those in the talk therapy group.”
Forreal, tho: talk therapy’s the wave. 🌊🌊🌊
It’s All About the D
No, not that one (though a good round in the sheets never hurt nobody). We’re talking about Vitamin D, which some say really helps folks who deal with SAD.
“Studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression,” writes Healthline. “Researchers behind a 2013 meta-analysis noticed that study participants with depression also had low vitamin D levels. The same analysis found that, statistically, people with low vitamin D were at a much greater risk of depression.”
They continued, “The researchers believe that because vitamin D is important to brain function, insufficient nutrient levels may play a role in depression and other mental illnesses. An earlier 2005 study identified vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with depression.”
The more you know.