Advice on preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Last year, we blogged about helping the elderly beat the winter blues and we touched on the fact that many people can feel sad or down at this time of year and the lack of sunlight can lead many to suffer with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. The symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter and as the evenings are already darker much earlier and the bitterly cold weather is still set to hit, we thought we would put together some helpful advice on trying to prevent the symptoms of SAD.

Symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal, everyday activities, irritability, sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning and craving carbs and gaining weight.

According to the NHS, the exact cause of SAD isn’t understood, but it is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn/winter. The lack of sunlight may stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus from working properly, which can affect the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy – the body may produce higher levels due to SAD), the production of serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep) and your body’s internal clock, as your body uses sunlight to time important functions, such as when you wake up.

Our top tips on preventing the symptoms of SAD:

Get as much natural light as possible

Get as much natural daylight as you possibly can, especially at midday and on brighter days. When you’re at home it’s also a good idea to sit near windows that let light in.

Use a dawn simulator or light box

If getting natural light is proving difficult, try light therapy by using a light box. They give out very bright light that is 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting, however, they can prove to be expensive, so you could try using a dawn simulator bedside light. These lights can be connected to an alarm clock and will get brighter gradually, mimicking a sunrise and waking you up naturally.

Keep your mind active

Keeping the mind active is a good way to prevent symptoms of SAD creeping in. You could take up a new hobby, join a new group, do crafting, writing, photography or anything else that interests you and keeps your mind ticking over and concentrated on something else.

Eat well

Eating well can help boost your mood and give you more energy. Balance carbs such as potato and pasta with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. For more ideas on eating well, read our blog here.

Keep warm

Being cold can make you feel down, so make sure you stay warm with hot drinks and hot food, warm clothing, shoes, slippers, blankets and jumpers. Aim to keep your home heated between 18°C and 21°C. We’ve got more helpful advice on keeping warm in winter here.

If your symptoms continue to develop, we would recommend talking to your GP, as it may be something more serious.

*Blog written with thanks to www.nhs.uk.