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6 Ways to Prevent Seasonal Effective Disorder

6 Ways to Prevent Seasonal Effective Disorder

Vicki Santillano | Divine Caroline

January 05, 2011

The onset of fall brings beautiful foliage, crisp days warmed by hot cider, and holidays celebrating the great pumpkin. Unfortunately, this season’s arrival also means shorter days and therefore fewer daylight hours, which can make everyone a little SAD.

SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is characterized by feelings of depression or lethargy as a result of infrequent access to light. Symptoms include sadness, weight gain, an inability to focus, constant fatigue, and feeling “under the weather” without a direct cause. Though there isn’t a specific reason for why SAD strikes certain people as the seasons turn darker, there are a few possible instigators. For example, melatonin production rates (a hormone that makes us sleepy) tend to rise in the winter. Serotonin, a mood-elevating hormone, is connected to sunlight—with less sunlight comes a decrease in serotonin, which might cause drops in mood.

Luckily, there are simple steps we can take to avoid SAD. In fact, if we start incorporating the following tips into our daily lives now, before the days become even shorter, perhaps we can avoid the winter blues altogether.

Try Light Therapy
This is the one of the more common treatments for those afflicted with SAD. Individuals are placed in front of boxes that emit bright, fluorescent lights (which can range from 2,500 to 10,000 lux, or level of brightness) for a scheduled amount of time each day. However, those of us trying to avoid the mood disorder rather than eradicate it can try simpler methods, such as being outdoors as much as possible during daylight hours and letting light in through windows. If your daytime hours are confined to a cubicle with no nearby windows, make it a point to spend a few minutes outside or near natural light every hour or so. If your home hosts the same problem, try using brighter light bulbs. Even small bursts of access to the light, which can be as simple as taking a ten-minute walk break, can improve one’s mood.

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