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5 Tricks for Conquering SAD
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects about 5 percent of the American population, reports the Mental Health America. And those who suffer from SAD know that it is more than just a mild case of winter blues. It can cause severe depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
What Causes SAD?
The cause of SAD is not fully understood by science. However, there are specific factors that may play a part. Waning sunlight can trigger changes in the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal “clock” that tells us when to sleep and wake. This sunlight reduction may stall the body’s production of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin. Another brain chemical, melatonin, which aids with sleep, is also affected during the seasonal sunlight deficit. The combination of off-balance chemicals and a disrupted rhythm take a toll on the mind and body.
But there are ways to combat the symptoms of SAD, and it starts by simply stepping outside.
One of the most effective treatments for SAD is sunlight. Even though there is less of it in the winter, it helps to soak in as many rays as possible by getting outside when the sun is up. Try going for a hike or playing outside with the kids for a couple of hours. Also, keep your curtains open when you do have to be indoors. Both the exercise and extra sun will positively affect your hormone levels. On gloomy days when there is just no sunlight to be found, Harvard Health Publishing recommends using light therapy with devices called “light boxes,” that put off bright light. Sitting near these for a certain period of time each day has proven helpful for people with SAD.
2. Plant Something
Gardening can be a wonderful remedy for depression symptoms. Contact with soil has been shown to increase serotonin levels because of a bacteria present called mycobacterium vaccae. Just digging in the dirt can give you an instant boost of happiness. Harvesting fruits and vegetables has also been shown to give people a little boost by causing the brain to release dopamine. This action comes into play by seeing, smelling, or plucking the produce.
Studies show that consistent exercise is extremely effective in combating clinical depression, and it works the same for even mild depression and SAD. Exercise causes your body to release more endorphins and stabilizes other hormone imbalances in the brain. So, the more consistently you work out, the better you should feel.
4. Connect With Others
Depression can be very isolating, but one of the best treatments for depression recovery is connecting with other people, and you can do that in many ways. Ask a group of friends to meet up for a long-overdue lunch. Join a support group or local church group. Get involved in the community by volunteering or attending social events. Anything to draw yourself out into the world is beneficial for your mental health.
5. Find Enjoyable Activities
Sometimes just doing something you enjoy can help ease the symptoms of depression. Check out a book at the library or re-read one you love. Just steer clear of sad tales that may add to your depression. You can also go out and watch a movie. Even going alone can prove to be just the stress-free evening you needed. Anything that brings you joy can be a great activity to give you a little happiness boost.
While any of these activities alone may not provide a complete cure for depression or SAD, they can certainly help alleviate the symptoms and make other methods more effective if you choose to use them. Some people also find it necessary to seek counseling or medication when the symptoms are too difficult to manage alone. And it’s important to know that there is no shame in getting help. If you stay active in managing your symptoms, you may soon find that they become easier and easier to combat.
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