Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression from Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

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Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

Many people generalize “winter blues” with symptoms such as lack of motivation and fatigue when the days are not as long anymore. This rarely means that have a seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In order for the condition to be diagnosed, it has to meet the criteria for clinical depression – low mood, lack of ability to enjoy anything, difficulty concentrating, no appetite, changed sleep patterns, or loss of interest in hobbies. Several of these symptoms have to be occurring at the same time for at least two weeks during the winter months, Dr. Erik Nelson, psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s Mood Disorders Center, says.

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Get outside during the day

“This absolutely helps, especially in milder cases,” Dr. Nelson says. The best time to be outside is when you get the greatest amount of natural light. Set aside 30-40 minutes to be out in the open when the sun is out. A simple walk gives you a daylight boost as well as some exercise. The day is usually brightest in the early afternoons. Sit next to a window if you can’t get out.

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Stay physically active

The release of endorphins is the immediate short-term effect because they can improve your mood right away, Dr. Nelson says. In the long-term, exercise helps promote neuroplasticity, Dr. Nelson says. Neuroplasticity means that the brain can reorganize itself by forming new neural connections over the years. Exercising outside is even better because you get the extra benefit of sunlight, he adds.

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Be social

Being in isolation may help some people deal with anxiety but being away from people can also make the depression worse, Dr. Nelson says. “Social media may be a good alternative if people can’t get out because they are still connected to others, but nothing beats one-on-one contact,” he adds. Having a good support network is helpful. Join a support group to get to know others going through the same thing. Simply going out for a drink with a friend or two can trigger happy feelings.

Get a light box

Light therapy has really proven to be one of the best treatments for SAD, Dr. Nelson says. The cause of SAD is light in daylight wavelengths not hitting the eyes, which in sensitive people means the brain doesn't generate enough serotonin (the “happy” hormone). Pick a box with a good size bulb and larger reflective surface so you are getting the light even when you’re not looking at it directly, he adds. These are the kinds of boxes used in studies. You may want to start the light treatment a few weeks before the symptoms usually occur, Dr. Nelson says.

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Go to talk therapy

Self-help can only go so far. If nothing helps, see a doctor. “There is a lot of evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) clearly helps with SAD,” Dr. Nelson says. A recent study, for example, observed patients for two winters. As much as 46 percent of people enrolled in light therapy reported depression during the second winter, while only 27 percent of those in the CBT group reported a second bout of symptoms. Talking helps patients not feel isolated, Dr. Nelson adds.

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Take Vitamin D supplements

“Some studies have shown that taking vitamin D supplements is also helpful,” Dr. Nelson says. In general, people who have depression go outdoors less, if at all. As a result, they are less likely to have adequate vitamin D in their blood. The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but shorter days mean less of it. Increase your intake with a supplement. You can also eat foods that are a surprising source of vitamin D.

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Mind what you eat

People who suffer from the winter blues often crave a natural amino acid called tryptophan. Chocolate, eggs, cheese, pineapples, tofu and nuts have lots of it. Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 all tend to contain large amounts of the amino acid. Trytophan is involved in the manufacture of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which the body produces when exposed to sunshine.

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Add Omega-3s to your diet

Include fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and anchovies in your diet, which are good sources of the essential oil omega-3 fatty acids. They have been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of SAD as they relieve the general symptoms of anxiety.

Get a dawn simulator

Studies have shown that a dawn simulator also works in dealing with the winder blues, Dr. Nelson says. If you have SAD, getting out of bed can be especially difficult because it’s still dark outside. This device is programmed to make the lights in your bedroom gradually brighten over a set period of time. The lamp mimics a natural morning sunrise using long-life LED bulbs. You can literally take control over how you wake up.

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Stay warm

Staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half, according to the British National Health Service. SAD cases are rare among people living within 30 degrees latitude of the Equator. If you don’t reside in a place where warm weather is a constant, make sure you have enough layers on during the winter months so you don’t feel the cold.

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Consider anti-depressants

Anti-depressants are sometimes recommended to people suffering from seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Nelson says. Bupropion has been FDA-approved to treat depression caused by SAD, he adds. “It has a stimulating effect.” It seems to be helping patients who struggle with oversleeping and overeating, he adds. “This is not to say that other drugs don’t help.”

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Plan your next big trip

Looking forward to something is an exciting feeling. Planning such event can boost your happiness and research supports that theory. Keeping your mind active and preoccupied with joyful concerns keeps symptoms away. The important aspect is to be concentrated on something that brings you positive emotions.

Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression