For those suffering from seasonal depression, or ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD), the oncoming of fall and winter can negatively impact their lives more than just the inconveniences of cold weather, snow, and icy conditions. For them, it’s much more than, “Ugh, it’s snowing,” or “The roads are too icy.” If someone struggles with SAD, the short days and lack of sunlight can make them feel sluggish, tired, and unmotivated. They can find themselves struggling to concentrate or lacking enjoyment in activities that previously made them feel happy. Usually, these symptoms will resolve themselves when spring makes its appearance, but until then, people who deal with SAD can have an extremely tough winter.
What are some solutions to help those experiencing SAD get through winter? Here are some at-home solutions you can try:
1. Consistently use a light therapy box.
A light therapy box (or lamp light) is an item that mimics the light of the sun. Sunlight can be extremely beneficial for our moods, as it can help create the production of serotonin, our happy chemical. If you live somewhere that is generally darker in winter, lack of sunlight can deepen your dark mood. If it’s seasonal depression, then consistent work with a light lamp can help create a mood boost you would normally get from the sun. Vitamin D also plays a role (how big or small is still yet to be fully determined). We absorb some vitamin D from the sun, so a lack of sun could result in a deficiency. In that case, a supplement may help, but as always, consult with a medical professional first.
2. Adjust your schedule to the sun.
Another action, which may be hard for those who are night owls, is to adjust your schedule to the sun. Try going to bed earlier and waking up with the sun. Quality, deep sleep is crucial for our brains, and the early exposure to light could help your mood. When the sun is out, even if it’s cold, try layering up your warmest clothes and spending some time outside in direct sunlight.
Exercise can also aid in improving mood. We have all heard about the many benefits of exercise; there’s research that shows movement, going outside, or both for even 10 minutes can help elevate your mood. An action as simple as a 10-minute walk could make all the difference. Even if you can’t go outside (snowstorm, below freezing temps, etc.) try doing a workout you can find for free online, walk around your home, do some basic chores, or cook a meal. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or planned out – just find a reason to move your body.
However, if these at home remedies aren’t helping and you find yourself spiraling further downward, please reach out to a professional. Research shows that what works best for fighting depression is a combination of talk therapy (where you truly look at your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to depression) and medication. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your mental health, and please remember that it is always okay to ask for help when you are struggling.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.