Don’t dismiss the “winter blues” as hearsay, the condition – more scientifically known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD – affects more than an estimated 10 million Americans each year, with women almost four times more likely to be diagnosed over men.
What is SAD?
The National Institutes for Health defines SAD as depression that is impacted by the seasons. It typically begins around late fall to early winter, and goes away in spring or summer. Symptoms of SAD include lethargy and lower energy levels, the desire to sleep more, and a craving for high-carb foods. While there are no real scientific causes for SAD, many doctors and researchers believe the depression may be caused by serotonin levels and changes to your biological clock.
How to Treat SAD
The good news is that SAD can be treated with several different therapies, in addition, a healthy diet and regular exercise could also relieve this condition. Light therapy is often used to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. This entails spending 20-60 minutes per day under bright, artificial cool-white fluorescent lights. This type of therapy is believed to supplement sunlight that is often missing during the colder, winter months. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends you speak with a mental health professional before beginning this therapy.
Another key recommendation for managing the symptoms of SAD is to eat a healthy diet. Steer clear of the rich and dense carbohydrates, and instead eat a green veggie-rich, leafy diet. Avoid white sugar and limit carbohydrates to a healthy amount.
Many healthcare providers may suggest medication to help with SAD, specifically Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants. You should consult with your doctor before starting any new medications.
If you are taking the holistic route or looking for another complementary method for coping with SAD, you should try yoga. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter yoga can reduce the impact of stress, help with anxiety and depression, be a self-soothing technique similar to meditation, and improve energy. All of these benefits align with the symptoms of SAD and can be noticed in as little as one yoga practice. As with all new exercise regimes, you should speak with your doctor before starting.