4 Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal depression, clinically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, impacts a projected 10 million Americans.

Since more Americans are experiencing symptoms of depression this year than in previous years, the coming winter is a concern for patients and health professionals alike.

Luckily, there are some simple, accessible, and winter-friendly methods that can help fight depression and promote wellness.

This list is not exhaustive, and if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to a mental health professional for a complete diagnoses and treatment plan.

1. Take online exercise or yoga classes.

Exercise is known to help avert symptoms of depression. One of the challenges of exercise is that we tend to think of it as a warm-weather activity. Luckily, even if you can’t stand the cold, there are plenty of indoor options! Winter need not make us sedentary.

There are numerous respected fitness and yoga experts on YouTube who share classes for free. Also, many gyms are offering discounts to online classes due to the pandemic. Check out this list by USA Today to start exploring both free and subscription online fitness.

Virtual exercise classes might not be your usual scene, but if it can help fight the winter blues, then it’s certainly worth a shot. Go for it!

2. Celebrate with friends and family, even if you don’t “feel” like it.

When all you want to do is crawl in bed and hibernate, ideas like “peace and joy” or “enjoying good times” seem pretty far-fetched.

Depression, seasonal or otherwise, can make us feel like there’s just no joy to be found. We know deep down, of course, that’s not true. We also know that spending lots of time alone is not good for you.

Do what you know is good for you, and spend deliberate time with friends and family. Even if your crowd is limited due to COVID-19, go and connect with other humans.

Make and enjoy hot chocolate together. Bake cookies or snuggle by the fire. Winter can be cold and bleak, but it can also be cozy and warm, so try to enjoy it!

3. Do something kind for someone, anything at all.

They say one of the best remedies to depression is doing something kind for someone else, because it shifts your focus from you to them.

Not because you somehow “ignore yourself” out of depression, but because it’s a lot harder to feel sad when you’ve made someone happy.

Maybe you know someone who’s also struggling and could really use your encouragement. Even on dreary days, don’t doubt the power you have to lighten someone’s life. An act of kindness can be grand, but it certainly doesn’t have to be, to pack a punch.

Send an appreciation text to a friend. Call your parents to check in, just because. Compliment a coworker for their skills, hard work, or even just their new haircut. They’ll appreciate your words and you’ll be glad to have brightened their day.

4. This holiday season, don’t be afraid to reinvent the wheel and create new traditions.

Needless to say, the holidays might look a little different this year due to COVID-19. Understandably, that can be really upsetting, and such changes could certainly exacerbate depression.

This year in particular, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to embrace a mindset of flexibility. If we expect the rest of the year to look like past Novembers and Decembers, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

But, if we acknowledge the probability of curveballs and are willing to adjust, we give ourselves permission to be happy in new ways.  

With that, don’t hesitate to reinvent your wheel of holiday activities and traditions. If your annual workplace party is canceled, what can you do instead? If your family can’t go out to the Christmas tree farm, what new tradition could be just as fun?

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Seasonal depression can be rough, but it doesn’t have to be detrimental. Whether or not you seek professional treatment like therapy or medication, there are accessible steps to fight depression day to day.

This list provides ways to practice active preventative care and remedial care, to whatever extent you are able. I hope it’s a little helpful as you pursue warmth and wellness this year!

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