Fall is upon us!
This is the time of year when change is in the air. No matter where you life (on this hemisphere) the days are getting shorter. The wake up process is harder, getting out and staying warm takes more energy. There also may be some other things that may change too, your mood. You may be starting to notice a bout of depression.
There is a name for this type of depression, it is commonly called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Many of us are affected by this every year. Then we battle it with medication, comfort food, alcohol, shopping, or just do nothing.
This is a serious Mental Health disorder and should not be taken lightly. Seek professional help if you are noticing that your depression is interfering with your life and relationships.
There are some scientific ways to fight back and feel better:
1. Get your Vitamin D levels checked by a doctor. You may be low on this vitamin and this can be corrected easily. In fact while they have your blood get all of your levels checked. Biology can have a major effect of your mind.
2. Make your environment brighter. When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.
3. Eat smarter. Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. The comfort foods may be yummy and are okay once in a while, but this is no form of a cure.
4. Simulate dawn. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed. We have one of these and morning is such a pleasant experience, even during the summer.
5. Exercise. A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try these mood boosting workouts.
6. Turn on the tunes. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.
7. Plan a vacation. Longing for sunnier days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. Who doesn’t like planning a vacation? This is so easy to do online. Just make sure you read the fine print before purchasing.
8. Help others. Ladling out soup at the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction. This is the time of year that it is easy to volunteer. I love the idea of getting the kids involved too.
9. Get outside. Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it's chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.
10. Drink water. Even though it’s not hot outside, you still need water. A simple full glass of water in the morning before you get out of bed will provide your first 8 ounces of the day. Besides, sleeping is hard work on your body, rehydrate.
If you want to talk more about this make an appointment by visiting my site at www.shannonstoolsforlife.com
Shannon Shadman, LPC, MSMHC, NCC, M.Ed.