Mental Health Tips

What is Seasonal Depression or SAD?


SAD is a reaction to the change in the number and intensity of daylight hours. Think Florida versus Maine. When days are shorter and the sun is less prevalent, it affects mood. Some people are more prone to react unfavorably SAD.


How do you know if you have it?

The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person. However, some common themes are change in appetite (craving more sugary and starchy foods), change in sleeping patterns (wanting or needing to sleep more), and a shift in mood (feeling blue or down). You should check with your doctor to confirm any diagnosis because there are other physical symptom that can create similar responses, such as major depression.


How do you cope?

You do some of the same things that folks with a diagnosis of depression do: go to bed and get up at the same time every day to reset your circadian rhythm, limit any naps to 20 minutes, no caffeine after 3 pm, eating whole foods, and, most importantly, getting physical activity early in the day when the sun is stronger. Some people find sitting in the sun with closed eyes facing the sun for 10 min twice a day can help.


What are some tips to improve or prevent seasonal depression?

Aside from a trip to the southern hemisphere where our winter is their summer, or flying like the snowbirds do to sunny places, many doctors recommend high-intensity lamps which have a minimum of 10,000 lus. There are smaller size lamps that don’t give an adequate amount of light so look for one with 10,000 lux. Research is uneven about using high-intensity lamps, many doctors recommend their patients sit in front of them on a regular basis. It can vary from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, but depending on your situation, it is best to get a recommendation from your physician.