Winter blues again? You’re not alone. Welcome to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Significant enough to earn a place in the psychological bible DSM-5, SAD is a subtype of a major depressive disorder that tends to crop up during limited sunlight (ie. winter time).
Dozens of articles have found this is a very real thing. The lack of light causes your body to produce less serotonin, the hormone to make us feel happy, alert and energised. The miserable weather or the fact that we've just spent three months locked indoors without daylight definitely doesn't help either. Regardless of the cause, the tips below will lift your spirits—no holiday required.
Here are 6 tips for beating Seasonal Affective Disorder this year.
Find Excitement In Each Day
Start the day by answering the question: ‘What am I looking forward to today?’ Studies have shown that writing in a notepad or diary—being reminded of the goodness which lies inside each day—brings about feelings of happiness, wellbeing and reduces signs of depression. Think there’s nothing great happening in your day? Fair enough. Try to start small: your morning coffee, seeing your bestie, not being in lockdown anymore. There is always something to be grateful for.
Get Proper Rest
This is a big one. Scientists believe reducing sleep disturbance can improve symptoms of depression, regardless of which came first. During sleep, your happiness hormones, serotonin and dopamine, ‘recharge’. And that allows them to function the next day. Translation? You’ll have way more pep in your step. If you’re struggling to sleep properly, check out our guide to getting a good night's sleep, or try introducing a sleep routine to your life.
Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods
The amino acid, Tryptophan, is what allows your body to produce the hormone serotonin in the first place. It can massively influence your overall level of happiness (there’s quite a bit of science to back this up). So how do you boost Tryptophan? Foods like fatty fish, eggs, spinach, walnuts, seaweed and the superfood spirulina are all extremely high in tryptophan, so get munching. Even better: research has also found tryptophan helps improve the quality of your sleep, so it’s a win-win here.
Try Light Therapy
With research demonstrating preventative light therapy (usually via a light box) reduces SAD symptoms by 36%, it’s definitely a consideration for those seriously affected. This one’s particularly good if you work indoors and miss out on daytime sunlight. There are even guides online that have rounded up the best SAD lamps—generally anything that emits over 2,500 lux, although around 10,000 lux is even better.
Boost your serotonin naturally with a bit of indoor exercise. It’s got the added benefit of avoiding the blistering cold. Health experts and psychologists keep coming back to exercise. Study after study shows it can be an effective tool against depression and also anxiety and stress. With free classes offered at retailers like Lululemon, plus free trials on apps like KIC, Sweat and Sworkit, you don’t have to worry about chilly evenings ever again.
Consider Professional Help
This one’s really important, guys. If, over the course of a few weeks, you’ve lost your ‘get up and go’, you’ve got a constant stream of pessimistic thoughts running through your brain, or you find you’re falling back on bad eating habits, booze or over-work, please realise it’s ok to not be ok. All you have to do is let someone know. Lifeline is always an option, as is seeing your GP for a private referral. Show yourself the same compassion you do to your best friend—you deserve it.
Need some exercise inspo? Here's everything you need to know about mindful running.
Image credit: Lucas Sankey