Before I moved to Boston, there were times I threw around the word “seasonal depression” and after living through some harsh winters, I now realize I had no idea what I was talking about. Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “winter blues,” is simply a depression that comes and goes with the seasons. Typically it starts in the late fall and goes away end of spring/early summer.
Although I was never officially diagnosed with SAD (if people even do?), I can say I’ve definitely experienced with it. And I don’t think I even knew it was a real thing that I needed to cope with. Flash back to my first winters in Boston, I definitely felt the difference in the winters I had experienced while living in San Diego. The days were short, you barely saw the sun..even if at all, and the temperatures were beyond freezing which I would imagine if I were a psychologist would be where SAD comes from.
Here I’ll be sharing what I learned to get you through the winter months in the best spirits!
Seasonal Affective Disorder
What this boils down to is that shorter days and less sunlight really do affect the brain’s chemical balance. This causes a circadian rhythm shift during the change in seasons so SAD is more common for people who live further from the equator which makes sense why I experienced it to a greater degree in Boston.
I also read that if you are already struggling with regulating serotonin SAD will be heightened/last throughout warmer/sunnier days, even though it is much less common.
Who does SAD affect?
SAD is more common in women, young adults/adolescents, and people who have previously struggled with depression and/or bipolar. According to studies I read, women are 4x more likely to be diagnosed and the most common age range is 18-30 years old.
Do you have seasonal depression?
Some of the most common symptoms of SA are having low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain (hmm maybe this is where the term winter weight comes in?) craving carbs, and even social withdrawal aka hibernation.
How to Manage Seasonal Depression
- Take a Vitamin D supplement. It’s said that vitamin D can help increase your serotonin which is what is known to if you lack, increase the risk of depression. I was a firm believer in mind over matter with this one, because everywhere I read it states that more research is needed.
- Brighten your day. If you sit in an office with no windows, make a point to move around and work from another area if you can for a few hours. If you have plants blocking sunlight, move them. Add plants (real ones) will also help your brain regulate yourself.
- Get outside. Bundle up and brave the cold, especially on those cold but sunny days. And don’t forget to do this while you’re outside….
- Move your body. I know it’s hard, and I’m the first one to come up with a million excuses but I am a firm believe in getting more endorphins. Working out, this could be simple from going on a walk, trying a new workout class, or even trying to follow a YouTube workout class. You won’t regret it when it’s done.
- Focus on all things positive. When SAD starts to come in, it’s easy to want to just get in bed when it’s dark out at 5pm and cuddle under blankets. But focus on positive things, like friendships, weekend getaways, anything that brings you joy, makes you happy, and gives you something to look forward too.
- Get a sun lamp. I love these because I hear them so often get called “happy lamps” and how can you not smile when you talk about them! These are literally lamps to promote happiness which are therapy lamps mimic sunlight to enhance mood, energy, sleep & focus – but without those UV rays.
Although this list did help me overcome and get through the typical winter blues, I am in no shape or form a medical professional, nor am I claiming to be. This is meant to give you some new ideas to see what works for you. If you think you need to, I would recommend reaching out to a doctor and get help.
Did you have something that worked for you to overcome seasonal depression? Let me know!
~ XOXO, the girl who’s forever fun of sunshine, Amanda