With the ending of daylight saving time, a bonus hour of sleep is gained, but something precious is lost: sunlight. When daylight ends earlier in the evening, there is an increase in the diagnosis of depression, according to a study in 2016. Roughly 5% of Americans find themselves falling into a kind of depression that is known as SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Those who experience a milder form, the winter blues, number in the millions more. There are several methods to treat seasonal affective disorder.
A dose each day of bright light, particularly in the morning hours, is an effective therapy to elevate the mood. This is according to multiple studies. It is among the main treatments for those with SAD. Lamps and lightboxes can be used in conjunction with relaxing activities such as reading, watching television, or participating in a hobby.
While it is easier to find time for light therapy with a lamp than with the sun in winter, it is extremely helpful to soak in the natural rays during the brief daylight hours. Natural light is responsible for boosting levels of serotonin. This is a chemical that regulates mood and helps the communication of brain cells.
Many theories exist to explain why the mood is improved by exercise. It may increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for feeling good, might promote brain cell growth, or simply have a meditative aspect. Studies do emphasize that exercise works better in combination with light.
If one’s energy is sapped by the winter’s darkness, one should avoid becoming overwhelmed. One big stressor in the darker months is the Christmas holiday. Try adapting to plans that place the holiday’s burdens around the family evenly or consider having a simple time out at a restaurant and rescheduling a bigger get-together during the warmer and brighter months of summer.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is one type of psychotherapy that is particularly helpful for victims of SAD. CBT helps those with seasonal depression train positive actions and thinking to replace negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Cognitively, it is important to realize that SAD is not a personal deficit.