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Seasonal Affective Disorder: 5 Ways to Feel Better - By Tad Lusk, LPC

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – a change in mood and functioning brought on by seasonal changes – is more common than you might think. 

Chances are you’ve heard of it, if not experienced it yourself. S.A.D. affects most people in the fall and winter when daylight hours decrease. The most common symptoms include: 

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Feeling discouraged or hopeless
  • Social isolation 

The symptoms are very similar to depression. If you’ve experienced this, I’m right there with you. I usually start to notice these symptoms in November and it can continue until March or so.

Fortunately, though, I’ve found lots of ways over the years that help me boost my mood and energy, and even sometimes (gasp) enjoy fall and winter.

Here are five of my favorite (and most effective) ways to deal with seasonal affective disorder.

1. The more sunlight, the better

The darkness and short days of fall and winter are one of the primary causes of S.A.D. The changes in light can disrupt your body’s natural sleep & wake cycles, throwing off your energy and disturbing the production of melatonin and serotonin—which help regulate sleep and mood.

So it’s key to maximize the amount of natural light you can get. This can seem tough if you work indoors, but make sure to get outside as often as you can: go out to lunch, go for brief walks during the day. Anything you can do to soak up the limited amount of sunlight during this time of year will help!

2. Exercise

Exercise is one of the most powerful and effective ways to naturally regulate your mood and energy. So make sure you get moving every day. It can be as simple as walking, taking the stairs, or if you’re more ambitious, go to the gym and get your heart rate and breathing up as often as you can. Similar to sunlight, when it comes to exercise, the more the better and I guarantee it will lift your mood.

3. Notice things you normally take for granted 

Personally, my favorite season is summer. However, I’ve found when I can look for and focus on small things to enjoy during the fall & winter, this helps my mood, outlook and quality of life tremendously. Just yesterday, it was cold and there was snow and ice everywhere. But the sun was out, the air smelled fresh and exhilarating and the sky was a beautiful blue. The mountains
were dramatically capped with white and I was able to take a deep breath and feel grateful and appreciative for the beautiful day. The fresh air actually reminded me of springtime when I normally feel happy and hopeful.

This is just one example. There are countless “little” things you can notice, enjoy and appreciate every day—cozying up with your favorite Starbucks drink, watching a favorite movie—take your pick! Even just having a roof over your head, a comfortable bed to sleep in, and a hot shower are awesome things to feel grateful and appreciative of. The natural tendency when you’re feeling down is to take these things for granted or not even pay attention. But I find when I look for small things to enjoy and appreciate, it really helps me feel better and power through the winter months.

4. Connect with people

One of the most common things, when we get depressed, is to isolate. We feel tired and moody and want to hole up, not do anything, and be alone. But that only makes the mood worse. I find when I reach out to people, talk to friends and family, plan activities and surround myself with people, it helps me feel much better. I get a fresh perspective and a definite mood boost that helps me get out of the seasonal blues.

5. Professional solutions

There’s a tremendous amount of simple daily habits and healthy choices that will help you effectively deal with S.A.D. But if you find your symptoms are severe or not budging, there are some other steps you can take. One is “light therapy.” This involves using a device called a “light box” that generates light designed to emulate natural sunlight. This helps your body compensate for the sunlight you’re not getting. If you search for “light therapy” online, you’ll find tons of good information about this. Likewise, you may want to reach out to a counselor for extra support. If you’re unsure where to start, download my FREE step by step guide to finding a therapist who’ll be the best fit for you. You can also ask your doctor, or a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner about medication to help balance your mood.

So what are your favorite ways to deal with S.A.D.? Which of these techniques are you going to try today? Comment down below!

Thanks for reading and as always, Be Well. 

P.S… This time of year can also be stressful, but my eBook The Stress Solution is your ultimate go-to guide for feeling calm & confident every day no matter what’s going on in your life. Click below to get your copy!