How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

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By the grace of the universe, we’ve somehow managed to have a pretty mild January to the point where it’s felt like a veritable oasis of spring-like temperatures. I know winter is still in full-swing and we’ll eventually get back to hating every second spent outside, but this iteration of winter is very welcome.

There is still one problem, though: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The days are still incredibly short--the sun isn’t rising until around 7am and then decides to be selfless and give the moon the stage at the absurd time of 4:45pm. It’s actually pretty inconsiderate considering the effects it has on us, the human inhabitants of “the North”. (I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve been told a joke would work here.)

As soon as the clocks change in November and the weather starts to turn, people across the wintered areas begin feelings the effects of SAD. Basically, the reduced exposure to sunlight decreases or body’s production of melatonin and serotonin, which has adverse effects on us, including lethargy, depression, fatigue, and loss of appetite. It’s something I never experienced down in Texas, but became very familiar with once I made it up to the Northeast. Which is why I want to offer my assistance in mitigating the yearly dance with this unwelcome party guest:

GO OUTSIDE

I know it’s terrible and unwelcoming out there but there really is no substitute for the great outdoors. Any time I’m feeling down or lethargic, a walk usually does wonders to clear it right up, what with the fresh air and everything.

With sunlight at a premium, it just makes sense to get outside and spend as much time soaking it in as possible. It’s like when summer starts and all the people are just loitering outside, or in the park literally soaking up the sun’s rays: just because we need to put on a jacket, doesn’t mean the sun doesn’t still have those restorative characteristics. Get out there and bask in its glory.

EXERCISE

The runner’s high is real, and that’s coming from someone who hates to run. If we can get ourselves up and out of the house and into a gym during these cold, dark months, we’ll be well on your way to feeling better. The endorphins that exercise releases will help lighten our mood and break the devastation of our dark surroundings.

I know working out is difficult, and that many of us don’t like it, but for the sake of mental health, let’s get moving. It could be something as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood, or something as intense as a 90-minute spin class. Whatever it is, get out and do it. Our sanity depends on it.

BRING SOME LIGHT INTO YOUR LIFE

What if we don’t want to work out, or go outside? What if we want to curl up into a blanket and stay inside? Have at it, kid, just be sure to pick up a lightbox or wake-up light.

A light box is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a box that emits light. The basic idea is that the light these boxes emit closely approximates the effects we get from sunlight. We’re not going to get the same Vitamin D we get from the sun, but it will trick our minds into thinking the sun is still out and help promote serotonin and melatonin production.

If dragging around a lightbox sounds a little wonky, there’s always the route of buying a wake-up light, which works by acclimating your body to light as you approach wake-up time. So instead of waking up in the dark, these clocks gradually begin brightening 45 minutes before it’s time to wake up to simulate getting up with the rising sun.

There are dozens of each of these products to choose from but for some guidance, our friends over at Slice have a buying guide that SAD really won’t like (that means it’s good)!

Until next time – Shine a light.

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Arye

When Arye isn't helping optimize your time, he is doing his part to ensure life is full of shenanigans.