How to treat seasonal affective disorder, How to deal with seasonal affective disorder, How to combat seasonal affective disorder, How to beat seasonal affective disorder

While the fall and winter seasons are associated with cozy blankets, warmer clothing and all things pumpkin spice, they’re also linked to feelings of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is experienced when the shorter and darker days of the fall and winter bring about feelings of extreme sadness, fatigue and disruptive mood changes. Although SAD can occur during other seasons, the fall and winter are the most common.

More than a case of winter blues or feeling blah just because time spent in the pool or by the beach is over, SAD is said to affect upwards of 20% of Americans. Along with depression and tiredness also comes lack of interest in engaging in activities once enjoyed. In a nutshell, the shorter days during these seasons mean you’re not exposed to light levels that you’ve been used to during summer months. In turn, your circadian rhythm—which is responsible for keeping your mental, physical and behavioral changes on track within a 24-hour cycle—is thrown off. The adjustment can take its toll on you, leading to SAD.

With some changes, however, you can cope with SAD. Here’s a closer look at some helpful suggestions.

Find More Light

No, this doesn’t mean you should trade your home in New Hampshire to one in sunny Florida. Rather, do what you can to ramp up your exposure to daylight. Daylight boosts your body’s serotonin levels, helping to reduce your depression.

The most obvious move is to purchase a lightbox specifically made for SAD sufferers. The box imitates outdoor light by distributing proper brightness and light wavelengths while also ensuring protection from ultraviolet lights. Experts suggest placing one in a room where you’ll be present and keeping it on for 1-2 hours daily at 1,500 – 2,500 lux (light output). Experts say that a light box helps comfort people with SAD while keeping their circadian rhythm in check.

Another option is to situate yourself in areas where there’s more natural light. If possible, enjoy your lunch at work near a window or bright environment instead of one that’s dim. Sit in places facing or near windows where light can filter in, both at home and at work. Keep blinds open as often as possible. If you’re into exercising, consider taking a walk during daylight hours rather than going to the gym (where diminished or artificial lighting levels can worsen your feelings).

Speak to a Professional

Any change in mood can illicit feelings of confusion and of course, create the desire to make self- improvements. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help, especially when coupled with light therapy. CBT helps correct mood disorders and has been found effective in helping those with SAD in particular.


Enjoying an outdoor walk will completely fix SAD, but it can alleviate symptoms greatly. It’s often considered a natural antidepressant that provides an energy boost for those with fatigue and depression. As a result, mood is improved, and feelings of sadness are diminished. According to a review published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal, many people have reported exercise as the ideal way to boost feelings of happiness. They even went so far as to say it has benefits similar to therapy or antidepressants.

Don’t Eat Sugar

While it’s not uncommon to try to counteract feelings of sadness with feel-good sweets, try your best to resist those sugar cravings. Sure, sugar occurs naturally in certain foods, and that’s okay. But added sugars – much like those packets you may put in coffee or sprinkle over cereal – can make your SAD go from bad to worse. Because sugar’s “happy high” wears off and only provides a temporary spike of energy, the feelings of sadness and fatigue that seep in afterwards will make you feel the same or worse than before. Forgo that doughnut and say no to that sugar fix.

Take a Vacation

Unfortunately, many people still have unused vacation time at work. Now is the time to take what you rightfully deserve! If possible, book a trip to a sunnier destination to help boost your light exposure. Not only is enjoying the destination helpful, but experts say just the sheer anticipation of a vacation can lift your mood.

Be careful though; it’s best to truly resolve issues surrounding SAD, so be sure not to view constant getaways as a fix. Ideally, turn to the other coping strategies instead of thinking that a road trip or plane ticket will always do the trick.