5 Ways to Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Well, we are approaching what I think is one of the worst days of the year – the autumnal daylight savings time. This period of time brings with it long stretches of darkness and colder weather, something this fan of summer dreads (and yet I continue to live in the northeast!). BUT I am vowing not to wallow in my self-imposed doom and gloom this year. I’m resolving to beat any SADness with a few simple steps!

SAD aka seasonal affective disorder, aka the winter blues, is a type of temporary, seasonal “depression”. Apparently researchers still don’t know exactly why some people are affected but most agree that the reduction of daylight plays a role in placing our circadian rhythms…our biological clocks, out of sync. Our bodies systems follow cycles that include waking upon first light. The reduced levels of serotonin and the seemingly elevated levels of melatonin play a significant role as these hormones regulate our mood and sleep cycles. Melatonin is secreted at night to help us find sleep balance, but when it is still dark upon waking in the morning and darker earlier in the evenings our internal clocks don’t match up to the current time so it’s believed that melatonin is released earlier causing us to feel sleepier longer.

During fall and winter some of us experience less energy, sleepiness, irritability, eating more (especially sugar and carbs), or feeling general malaise.

So what can we do?

  1. Let there be light
    • Some studies point to full spectrum light therapy to ease SAD symptoms. Sitting in front of a light box with an output of 10,000 lux (100x’s brighter than indoor lighting) for 30 minutes daily seems to have some positive effects. There may be some contraindications so do your research before investing in one.
  1. Go outside
    • If a light box isn’t your thing then just get outdoors and soak up as much daylight as possible! Go for a 20 minute walk shortly after waking so your body is charged up for the day.
  1. Exercise
    • Movement is a surefire way to release some endorphins – your happiness hormones. Plus, you’ll burn off those extra calories you may accumulate from winter weather binge watching…and eating.
  1. Change your perspective
    • Ok, so winter might not be your favorite season but shifting your attitude just may help you get through it. If you’re already creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of misery STOP right now or you just may have a miserable winter! Shift your thinking, schedule time to meet with friends, wear brighter colors, keep busy – knit, hike, write, read; whatever it takes to keep your mind and body occupied.
  2. Relax
    • Massage and Healing Touch are proven stress-busters largely due to the release of those feel good hormones, endorphins! Keep reading…

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention massage and Healing Touch as ways to cope with SAD. Seasonal changes bring with them energetic and elemental shifts to the environment and your body. Healing Touch addresses the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual changes you may experience. The dread you face as winter approaches and the recall of previous winters affects the mental layer of your energy field. Anxiety, irritability, and depression affect the emotional layer. The physical layer is influenced by the physiological changes of serotonin and melatonin levels resulting in sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and lethargy. You may feel a loss of connection to others or lose interest in things that previously brought you joy, altering your spiritual layer.

Healing Touch can be a tremendous benefit during this time of year as it clears, connects and balances your mind-body. The techniques often leave people feeling energized yet deeply relaxed and lighter, even more hopeful. A Healing Touch session resets your systems, changes the circuits of your brain (neuroplasticity) to allow for optimal function, and creates a mood shift, helping you alter your attitude and perspective.