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Living where I do in the Poconos, specifically in a house surrounded by lots of trees, means that the majority of my days are cloudy, rainy, and in the winter there’s lots of snow. When we do have a sunny day, I don’t really get to enjoy it if I’m at home. Either it’s summer and the trees are all filled in, covering up the rare blue sky, or it’s winter and too cold to go out and enjoy the blue sky through the bare tree tops.
When I used to live in North Carolina I never really thought about the seasons affecting my emotional health, and I never worried if I was getting enough sunlight. It was always sunny, even in the winter. And when it was winter, most days you could go out on the town with no problem. It was never so cold that you needed to huddle in your house for days at a time. But when winter hits here in the Poconos, life basically comes to a halt. And it lasts for more time than winter in North Carolina. While North Carolina is enjoying it’s spring, I’m still here in the Poconos battling the last couple snow falls of the winter season.
I don’t think I ever had Seasonal Depression before moving here. When the seasons aren’t that extreme, seasonal depression isn’t that much of a threat. But three years in the Poconos has taught me all about this awful phenomenon.
Seasonal Depression, also called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (of course the acronym is SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons. It usually begins and ends about the same type every year. For most people with Seasonal Depression the symptoms start in the fall and continue on through the winter.
The cause of SAD is unknown, but these are some factors that may come into play:
Your biological clock (circadian rhythm) A decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
Serotonin levels. Less sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which may trigger depression. Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects your mood.
Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of melatonin in the body, which factors into sleep patterns and mood.
Right now we’re at the tail end of the winter season, thank goodness, but if you’re someone who deals with SAD every year you should be prepared to ease the symptoms the next time around.
I put together a list of ways you can get some relief:
- Use a Light Therapy Box
It’s recommended that you use a Light Therapy Box for about 30 minutes a day, and a lot of people will use it first thing in the morning. The light from a Light Therapy Box mimics sunshine and will help to stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress it’s natural release of melatonin. There was a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Affective Disorders that found that one week of light therapy may be enough, although most people continue light therapy throughout the entire season that they’re affected.
- Use a Dawn Simulator
These are similar to a Light Therapy Box, but they’re actually an alarm clock. Only instead of waking you up abruptly with loud beeping or music, this device will produce a light that gradually increases with intensity just like the sun. It’s basically a Light Therapy Lamp and Alarm Clock wrapped into one.
- Take Vitamin D
The link I provided for this one is the Vitamin D I personally buy for myself. I researched the company before buying it and I’m very comfortable paying the low price because I know the quality is good. I take it daily.
Research reported in 2014 in the Journal Medical Hypotheses states that low levels of vitamin D were linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Which makes perfect sense. We get Vitamin D from sunlight, so if there’s less sunlight, it stands to reason that there would be less Vitamin D. A study was published, also in 2014, in the Journal Nutrients which found that people who took Vitamin D supplements saw significant improvement in their depression.
Of course, always talk to your doctor first before assuming that you need any supplement. I’m no doctor. Your doctor will help you get your Vitamin D levels checked so you can know whether or not Vitamin D supplements are right for you. And if it turns out they are, I do highly recommend the brand I linked to. They’re great.
- Keep a Journal
You could go with the pretty one I linked to or this one if you want to be “Zen as F*ck” (I just had to share that one, hahaha, some of you will so love that)
I used to be religious about writing in my journal as a kid. I wish I still kept up with it as well as I did back then. My journaling is so sporadic nowadays. But when I do get around to doing it, I always find that I feel better afterwards. Maybe it’s the release of all the thoughts zooming around in my brain, or maybe it’s just nice to put pen to paper. There’s something relaxing about it that brings me back down to earth. Journaling definitely helps you deal with intense emotions, so keeping a journal throughout the winter months may be a good thing to implement.
- Take a Vacation
Okay, admittedly not all of us have the money for this one. I sure don’t. But maybe you do. Taking a vacation to some place sunnier and warmer in the winter time is a good way to get that sunlight you are so craving.
- Try Aromatherapy
I know, you’ve heard it a million times, but really: essential oils are kind of amazing. I always rolled my eyes when I heard someone say that until recently my mom gave me an essential oil set that was super pricey (not like the cheap crappy ones I buy for myself), and I’m telling you they actually do something for me. I guess all along I’d just been using the cheap stuff. I always wondered why people were spending so much money on little bottles of oil. Now I get it.
There are essential oils that will help you with depression, ones that will help you get good sleep, and ones that will help you to be alert during the day. All of which will help with Seasonal Depression.
- Go Outside
I know. It’s cold out there… but if you can stand the cold, try to go outside and get yourself some real sunlight. Yeah, Light Therapy Boxes are great, but the real thing is even better. Get that Vitamin D up and fight off the depression.
Of course this would be on the list. It’s on literally every list that exists. But for good reason. We all know that exercise helps alleviate things like depression and anxiety. It will be a definite mood lift and you will be so glad you did it.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. What are some things you do to help ease Seasonal Depression? Let me know in the comments!
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On