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10 Ways to Beat SAD

10 Ways to Beat SAD

By Stacey Feintuch

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Many people feel a little disappointed and sad when summer ends. There's a long winter ahead, shorter days and often a less laidback lifestyle with the return to school and crazy schedules.

Some people, however, get really depressed and SAD—as in seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at certain times of year, usually in the winter. Symptoms resemble other types of depression—hopelessness, less energy, irritability, sluggishness and loss of interest in what once made you happy. It can increase your appetite (causing weight gain) and cause you to sleep more.

Learn more about SAD.

Take some steps to prevent your SAD from worsening and help you feel better this season.

Keep a journal
Recording what's going on in your head can help you release negativity from your system. When writing, do so in the evening. That way you can reflect on the day. Write down your feelings, thoughts and concerns.

Get moving
Exercise helps improve your physical health and reduces your risk for diseases. It's also been shown to boost your mood. Plus, you'll pump extra oxygen to your brain, which can help you feel more alert.

Stick to a schedule
Keeping a regular schedule improves sleep by exposing you to light consistently and at predictable times. And that can help alleviate SAD symptoms. Eating regularly can also help you eat healthfully and avoid the weight gain that many people with SAD experience in winter.

Add aromatherapy to your life
Put some drops of essential oils in your nightly bath to promote sleep and relaxation. A study in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that essential oils from the poplar tree were found to help depression.

Socialize
Stop making excuses for not leaving the house. Yes, it's cold out. So, grab that cashmere sweater and get out there. Accept that lunch date invite. Take the kids to see a flick. You'll only feel lonely if you keep to yourself. And that's what you want to avoid.

Head outdoors
Take advantage of the sunlight and be out whenever you can during the day. Bundle up and take a stroll. Or just go outside for a few minutes and breathe in the air. When indoors, let natural light in by keeping your blinds open.

Go out of town
Those people posting Instagram posts of winter beach vacations are onto something. Winter travel lets you escape the snow, wind and cold. Even a few days in a warmer climate can lift your spirits. You'll get excited as you prepare for your getaway. And that mood will remain for a bit when you return.

Give back
It's hard not to feel good when you're lending a helping hand. Seek opportunities to volunteer where you can make a difference. Donate to a toy drive. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Buy gifts for a family in need. Your mood will likely improve as you do something altruistic.

Light it up
Light therapy tricks your body into thinking the days are brighter and longer than they really are. Try sitting under a special bright lamp for a certain amount of time each day. Speak to your health care professional to see if this treatment is right for you.

Eat right
When you have SAD, you may crave foods that are sugary and rich in carbs. Beat SAD by eating mood-boosting foods like leafy greens (such as spinach), nuts, seeds, berries, whole grains and salmon.

Read more Tips for Taking Care of Your Health in Winter.