Does the harsh cold of wintertime get you down in the dumps? Here are some ways to fight seasonal depression.
When the brittle cold sweeps in, it’s easy to wallow away in bed dreaming about the feeling of sunlight on your skin. But for some, the feeling goes way deeper than feeling a pang of jealousy toward those lucky year-round summer folks in LA or Florida — Seasonal Affective Disorder, with the suitable acronym SAD, affects about 4 to 6 percent of the population, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Another 10 to 20 percent may also have mild SAD.
Anybody battling depression knows that an internal emotional struggle is nothing to be shrugged off. Despite the fact that SAD doesn’t last all year, those with seasonal depression still go through feelings of despair, guilt, worthlessness and loneliness. But there are ways to battle the seasonal blues, including light therapy, smartphone apps, psychotherapy, and medications.
There are a number of light therapy lamps and boxes that can help with SAD. According to Harvard’s health blog, bright light stimulates cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, which is the brain area that helps control circadian rhythms — restoring a normal circadian rhythm combats seasonal symptoms.The light therapy boxes provide light about 100 times brighter than indoor lighting, so you’re supposed to sit close to the light for 30 minutes a day, but not look directly into it.
Light therapy is at least as effective as antidepressant medications for those with SAD, according to Harvard, but it might not be for everyone. Harvard also warns that the FDA doesn’t test or regulate the light box devices.
Smartphone and Tablet Apps
A few apps have been designed to help those struggling with SAD make it through until the warmth of spring returns. ABC7 reports that an app called Blue Light Therapy can help alleviate the winter blues. BlueWave is another app that vows to combat seasonal depression with light therapy by measuring your body’s internal clock and emitting just the right amount of light measured in nanometers.
The Happy Apps, another SAD-combatting app, also claims to help fight other medical conditions like circadian rhythm disorders, sinus congestion, and even some psychiatric disorders. It uses simulated light therapy as well as a Color Therapist option that determines which color of light is the best one for your session.
Importantly, these cell phone light apps must only be used for a limited amount of time each day, at most 30 minutes. It’s also critical to keep your phone at least a few inches away from your face to avoid damaging your eyes.
Electrical Ionizer Machines
An “electrical ionizer machine” is essentially a fancy name for a little box that combats SAD by imitating summer air, a Columbia University study found. How does it work? Negative ions, or atoms that have an extra negatively charged particle, are most prevalent in the summer air. These ions may be key in fighting depression, and so a lack of them in the frigid winters could trigger feelings of sadness.
The electrical ionizer machines have timers too, so you can conveniently set a timer so switch the box on an hour or two before your alarm goes off in the morning, and you’ll wake up with more positive and refreshed feelings.
If you’re skeptical that light boxes, apps, or electrical machines could help manage season depression, there are also natural remedies like exercise, psychotherapy, or eating foods rich in vitamin D or omega 3 fatty acids like fish. Nutrients from vitamin-C rich fruits and green veggies like spinach also help with mood and energy levels.
Whatever your preferred method of treatment may be, rest assured that there are a number of natural and technological ways to replenish your body with feelings of summertime happiness.