Many people feel a little sad when summer comes to an end and a long season of cold weather is on the horizon. And while it's totally normal to feel a little disappointed, some people get really depressed. Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at certain times of year—usually in the winter. The symptoms are pretty much the same as other types of depression, including hopelessness, sluggishness, less energy, irritability and loss of interest in things that once made you happy. SAD also tends to increase people's appetite and cause them to gain weight, as well as to sleep more.
If you're feeling any of these symptoms already or they sound familiar from last year, there are a few steps you can take to prevent SAD from getting worse and make yourself feel better this season.
Get plenty of exercise
You might think working out is the last thing you'll want to do when you're feeling down and it's cold outside, but if you can motivate yourself to do it, there are some major benefits. Exercise not only helps to improve your physical health and reduce your risks for a number of diseases, but it's been shown to be a real mood booster. The extra oxygen that's pumped into the brain during exercise can also make you feel more alert, waking you out of your slump. And who wouldn't feel better about seeing positive changes in the mirror?
Try light therapy
Light therapy has been tested as an effective treatment for SAD, because it tricks the body into thinking the days are longer and brighter than they really are. It involves sitting under a special bright lamp for a certain amount of time each day—usually somewhere around 30 minutes in the morning to mimic the sunrise. You can ask your doctor about this treatment if you feel SAD symptoms, or just try to get as much sunlight as you can outdoors every day and keep your shades open to let light in.
If you tend to make excuses for not going out in the fall and winter, you need to get yourself out of that habit. Break out of your rut! Even if you don't feel like calling a friend or family member to stay in touch or you don't think you have it in you to go out for lunch with friends, make it a point to do so. Keeping to yourself will only make you feel lonely, and that's what you're trying to avoid.