It’s only October, but this is about the time Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD–depression that hits in fall and winter) can creep in. So if you’re one of the millions of sufferers (like me), what can you do to nip this puppy in the bud (to mix metaphors)?
Well, for starters, a new study released in the latest Behavior Therapy medical journal found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective than light therapy (sitting in front of one of those special lamps) in the long-term.
The study’s main researcher says this is partly because with CBT there’s actually a therapist supporting you and making sure you practice and with light therapy, the “compliance rate” is incredibly low. Because really, who wants to sit in front of a lightbox doing nothing for 30 minutes a day? But CBT also gives you psychological tools for working with thoughts and feelings that can work across many areas in your life and create lasting effects.
Outside of finding yourself a skilled CBT therapist (which might be a great thing to do), you can try these tips, which I’ve collected from my own experience and reputable places on the interwebs. As with anything, check with your doctor before making any changes. Also get a proper diagnosis, which can start with you asking yourself if you’ve experienecd any of the following recently: fatigue, oversleeping, withdrawal, energy slumps, slowed thinking, carb cravings, and weight gain. Also, The Center for Environmental Therapeutics has a nifty free depression evaluation test, advice on buying lightboxes, and other SAD-related info.
For the record, no one actually officially knows what causes SAD–it might be increased melatonin levels in the blood, but that’s just a theory–making it very difficult to fully prevent. So, these are just some ways to address the roots of the symptoms. Enough disclaimers for you?
Tips for (Maybe) Preventing SAD
1) Exercise more frequently and vigorously.
2) Increase your home’s light–raise the shades, trim the hedges, make sure you don’t sit in a dark room unnecessarily.
3) Practice relaxation and stress management techniques like meditation or slow deep breathing.
4) Get outside more, especially in the sunshine.
5) Have your doctor check your Vitamin D levels and supplement if needed.
6) Get a light therapy box–and use it! Some say you should sit in front of it for 30 minutes in the morning, preferably within 10 minutes of waking.
7) Visit sunshiney places.
8) Get enough (but not too much) sleep and rest.
9) Eat a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fats and refined sugars, high in magnesium and calcium from veggies, whole grains, and some lean protein.