More than half a million Americans suffer from a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While the symptoms generally improve drastically in the summer months, the condition can be very disruptive during the winter. It is not uncommon for antidepressants to be described, but some people prefer to either try a natural approach or augment their drug therapy with alternative remedies.

Light Therapy

One of the triggers for SAD is the shorter days in the winter months. The lack of sunlight can have a pronounced effect on some people. Fortunately, there are light therapy boxes that can be used to mimic sunshine and improve the negative symptoms. Usually, the treatment involves sitting in front of the box for 30 minutes every morning.  If possible, natural sunlight is best so sufferers are encouraged to get outside whenever weather permits.

Exercise

Many studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate the symptoms associated with most psychological health disorders, including SAD. Choosing an outdoor activity can be extra beneficial due to the exposure to the sunlight. If that is not possible, hitting the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike is a good way to get your body moving and improve your mood.

Maintain a Schedule

In order to get enough sleep and gain exposure to light therapy at the same time of day, every day, it’s important to find a schedule that works and stick to it. It is common to feel disoriented, unmotivated and overwhelmed while depressed which makes having a routine even more important.

Meditation and Yoga

A gentle way to give your mental and physical muscles some relief is to make time for meditation and/or yoga every day. There are an increasing number of studies showing that both ancient practices are associated with improved mental clarity and mood (among other benefits!) which, of course, is ideal for those suffering from SAD.

Talk to Someone

If there are strong support people in your life, lean on them when things get tough. Chances are that they are more than willing to be there for you in your time of need. However, if you find that you are turning to your friends and family too often or are beginning to feel burdensome, find a local support group or therapist who can help you develop coping strategies for managing SAD.

Of course you can try variations of these items. Maybe a dance class or swimming lessons sound better than the treadmill or a meditative hobby, such as painting, is preferable than sitting in silence on a cushion. Find a method that works for you (investigate these 7 other tips for beating the winter blues) and stick with it. It generally takes a few weeks to really see the benefits of new habits as we incorporate them into our lives. Of course, you begin to feel very depressed seek professional help immediately. Otherwise, hang in there. Summer will be back before you know it!