Seasonal affective disorder leaves many people feeling depressed and dragged out in the fall and winter. While seasonal affective disorder can occur in summer as well, autumn is the time of year we may most associate with SAD.
Lack of sunlight seems to be a significant cause for SAD. Your sleep-wake cycle gets disrupted when the length of days shorten. Change in the amount of light exposure may also affect serotonin production, which may leave you with a lower mood.
People with SAD tend to be disinterested in things that previously interested them. They crave carbohydrates and may eat more, and put on weight. Their mood tends to be sad, anxious, or brooding.
These changes will appear in September or October and last until April or May. If you've been brought down at the same time and bounced back at the same time for two or more years in a row, you may have SAD.
If winter days are quite short where you live, or if the amount of daylight is especially short, you may be at higher risk for SAD. If any members of your family suffer from SAD, you have a higher risk for it too.
One of the apparent causes of SAD is the lack of exposure to sunlight as the warm seasons are past. Getting some of those rays from the sun can help, even if it's only for a short time.
One treatment that may help to ease some of its symptoms may seem like it goes in the wrong direction. But even if every instinct tells you to hide under your quilt with the blinds closed, your redemption is more likely to be found outside in the open air, especially during the day.
Working out may help to lift you out of your SAD blues. When done on a regular basis, exercise tends to have a cumulative effect, of increasing energy and stamina. Even going for a walk may be enough activity to make a difference for you. If you enjoy being more active, so much the better.
Half an hour of jogging done three times per week may be as helpful as psychotherapy would be for SAD. And unlike antidepressants, exercise can begin to make a noticeable difference in as little as a few days. An hour outside doing aerobic exercise, may offer the benefits you'd receive after 2.5 hours in the house doing light treatment.
Go for a run, a walk, a bike ride or a trip down a hill on a toboggan ... and feel your mood begin to lift.
Jody Smith is a freelance writer for Empowher.com
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