How to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder

Shackleton sweaters

How to
Fight Seasonal
Affective Disorder

What it is, how to tell if you have it
and proven tactics to beat it

Your seasonal armor: this cashmere blend funnel neck sweater, inspired by an archival piece from 1907. $626, by Shackleton

It doesn't take a psychiatrist to confirm that weather affects your mood. Cold, wet weather makes it harder to get around and forces us inside, while shorter days rob us of sunlight—it's no wonder why our outlook can get gloomy. But, for some, the mental and physical changes brought on by the colder months can point to something more significant. According to Psychology Today, around 25% of all Americans suffer from some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Classified as a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year, some cases are more severe than others. But anyone suffering develops a predictable set of symptoms, according to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the pioneering psychiatrist and author of Winter Blues. He led the team that first identified SAD and developed therapies to treat it. "They slow down and have a hard time waking up in the morning—their energy level decreases and they tend to eat more, especially sweets and starches, so they usually gain weight," he says. "Their concentration suffers, and they withdraw from friends and family. As you can imagine, their work and relationships suffer, and they can become quite depressed."

Even in its mildest form, these winter blues bring us down. But there are simple solutions according to the doctor. And these science-backed tactics will ensure you stay healthy, energized and feeling positive all-season long.

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Up Your
Light Exposure

Light is a big booster, says Dr. Rosenthal. "Since the syndrome is linked to a lack of light, people with SAD may become depressed during cloudy weather at any time of year," he says. "Or if they are confined to windowless offices or basement apartments." In his research, about 80% of SAD sufferers benefit from light therapy. Which is why SAD lamps sales and searches are on the rise—they're effective.

Beurer TL100 Light Therapy Lamp

TL100 light therapy lamp,
$150 / $137.81 by Beurer

There are plenty fo choose from, but the Beurer is our favorite due to its sleek design and quality of light. It takes a little time to set up and customize to your liking, but it's simple to use and connects via Bluetooth to their LightUp app. Use the app to shuffle through 256 customized color variations or 10 presets. Handy timers automatically turn off the light at set intervals from a 15 minute burst to a full two hour light bath.

Beurer TL100 Light Therapy Lamp

TL100 light therapy lamp,
$150 / $137.81 by Beurer

Embrace
the Cold

Leaving your warm bed for a bracing cold shower? We know how it sounds, but hear us out. A study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that exposure to cold activates your sympathetic nervous system and increases the availability of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and endorphins. Researchers believe that SAD sufferers may be less likely to experience depressive symptoms after an energizing cold shower.

Get Outside
(or Fake It)

Outdoor Fellow No. 8 Candle

No. 8 candle,
$37 by Outdoor Fellow

A Kyoto University study found the smell of pinewood is enough to significantly lower stress levels and relax your anxieties. If you have the ability to walk among the trees, take advantage of nature and let it lift your senses. Or you can use this as an excuse to buy a real Christmas tree early. We're fans of lighting up a meditative candle imbued with natural pine essential oil, like this one from Outdoor Fellow, which blends pine with juniper berry and sandalwood.

Outdoor Fellow No. 8 Candle

No. 8 candle,
$37 by Outdoor Fellow

Take a
Mood-Boosting Supplement

Toniiq Ultra High Strength 5HTP Capsules

Ultra high strength
5HTP capsules,
$15.97 by Toniiq

Consider this your sunshine supplement. Sure, you could pop a Vitamin D pill, but it turns out, 5-Hydroxytryptophan is much more effective at fighting seasonal depression. Supplemental use of 5-HTP, a naturally occurring amino acid, can help balance levels of serotonin in the body, which will help you better control irritability and aggression, while keeping anxiety at bay. Take them before bed and wake up more energized and ready to take on the day—even if it's grey and sleeting outside.

Toniiq Ultra High Strength 5HTP Capsules

Ultra high strength 5HTP capsules,
$15.97 by Toniiq

FYI

In Sweden, where the sun sets at around 3pm in January, light therapy clinics have been a popular way of treating SAD since the early 1980s.

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