If you’re one of the millions of people who feel sad, lonely, and depressed during the shorter days of the fall and winter months there are ways to make yourself feel a little better and put a smile back on your face. Although scientists are still mystified about why seasonal depression happens to some and not others, self-treatment options are effective and can make you happier in the long run.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Following a schedule and getting enough sleep is a major key in combatting seasonal depression. Normal sleep patterns help to restore a person’s mind as well as his or her body. When you don’t get enough sleep – between seven and nine hours every night – you’re not giving your mind a chance to reset and feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or guilt only intensify. Even during an episode of depression it’s important to stay on a regular sleep schedule, especially on the weekends or your days off from work when staying up late and sleeping late may be tempting.
One thing scientists do know about seasonal depression – sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – is that it occurs when the days are shorter and there is less sunlight. Light therapy works by tricking your brain into thinking there is plenty of bright sunshine, a known trick to helping put you in a better mood. Light therapy has become a leading treatment for seasonal depression and your doctor may use it alone or in conjunction with antidepressants.
Herbs have been around for thousands of years and many can be used to boost the serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in an upswing in moods. St. John’s wort is a natural antidepressant that can help relieve stress and help you sleep better. Lavender helps you think more clearly by calming the mind, and milk thistle also fights off depression while removing toxins from the liver. These and other herbs can are found in most health food stores. Be sure to discuss appropriate options with your doctor before starting treatment.
Have More Sex
Nobody really needs a reason to have more sex, but if you’re suffering from depression, sex may be just what the doctor ordered. Not only do sex and orgasm help you relax, they releases the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, helping to alleviate feelings of sadness and depression.
Exercise, like sex, releases serotonin in the brain, which alleviates depression symptoms. It may be harder to get outdoors to exercise during the winter, but it’s important to find a time and place for regular physical activity as often as possible. Get outside as much as possible even if only for a walk around the block. Even on cloudy days, the outside light can help you feel better.
Eat Healthy Foods
Many people resort to eating comfort foods during the cold winter months. Unfortunately, comfort foods are often high in fats and sugars and will provide little or no long-term depression relief. No matter how tempting the bowl of ice cream sounds, try to incorporate healthier foods into your diet. Foods rich in vitamin B along with healthy fish oils help your body create serotonin. Other healthy choices include nuts, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and beans.
If you feel like you may be suffering from SAD, see your doctor. He or she can work with you to come up with a treatment plan that will work for you. It is important to tell your doctor about any medications you may be taking and to follow his or her advice. SAD can be managed and will dramatically subside as spring gets closer.