The summer can be such a fun and exciting time filled with new family memories, rest and relaxation.  When fall rolls around, we all begin finding our way back to our regular routines but, usually, the weather is mild and we can still enjoy taking a stroll while we marvel at the changing leaves.  Unfortunately, some people experience real difficulty as soon as winter begins.

While some people refer to this as the “winter blues” or “winter depression,” the clinical name is Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects approximately 5% of the population. The majority of people suffering this malady are women between the ages of 15 and 55.  Of course, not everyone who feels a little low-energy during the dreary months is suffering from SAD, the tips for combating the doldrums during the cooler months can apply to anyone.

Get More Natural Sunlight

Seasonal Affective Disorder is less about the cooler temperatures and more about the shorter days in the winter.  One way to combat this is to get up a little earlier and be ready to take in as much sunshine as possible as soon as the sun comes up.  Studies show that even on cloudy days, there is still some benefit to basking in nature’s most effective remedy.

Try Artificial Light

A light box or a light visor can be purchased for light therapy – which can lead to complete remission for 50% to 80% of users.  The light must be used for a specific amount of time each day (as directed by a professional).  While the box must be used with eyes open, facing it in a stationary position, the visor can be worn while engaging in simple activities such as preparing meals.

Medication

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated through the use of antidepressant medications such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac.  These drugs help by boosting the serotonin levels in the brain, thus, improving the symptoms related to depression.

Embrace the Season and Get Active

Instead of giving in to the sadness by staying indoors, consider taking up a winter sport such as snowshoeing, skiing, skating, sledding or even winter photography.  A study by the University of Vermont showed that participants who engaged in activities that counteracted depressive self-talk (“it’s too ugly outside to do anything”) through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and outdoor activities, experienced incredible improvements (SAD recurred in 7%), even in comparison to light therapy alone (SAD recurred in 37%).

Support SAD Sufferers

If you know someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, try to spend more time with them during the winter months, even when they might seem to want to be alone.  Help them seek the appropriate treatment and encourage them to follow the plan.  Finally, remind them that the spring will come around soon and that they will feel better during the warmer months.