Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often known as winter depression. The shorter days, reduced sunlight and colder weather, can have a huge impact on our overall happiness.
The main reason for SAD is not exactly known, but it’s thought to be mainly related to reduced sunlight exposure, which might cause a part in the brain called hypothalamus to stop working. As a result, it confuses the internal body clock, the production of serotonin and the production of melatonin. All of which can easily disrupt sleep, appetite, mood, and create feelings of depression.
Depending on its severity, SAD can be managed by making small changes to your lifestyle and home environment. So, we’ve come up with seven things you can do in and around the home to help combat SAD.
It’s worth noting, we are not experts. If you suspect that you might have SAD, visit the NHS website for guidance on whether you should seek help from your GP.
Fill your home with plants
Adding plants to the home can be extremely beneficial to our mental health year-round, but when it comes to the changing of seasons, plants can have an even bigger impact.
There are many studies that prove filling your home with plants can increase productivity, especially when working from home. Having plants in the home can also connect us to nature, which helps clear the mind and make us think easier. Plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, which reduces stress levels and increases mood.
If you’re working from home choose a collection of different sized indoor plants to add to the workspace. You can also invite them into the living room or bedroom where feeling relaxed and calm is essential.
Light box therapy
Light box therapy will not cure SAD, but it’s viewed as one of the most effective ways to fight it, known to dramatically decrease symptoms within a few days.
It involves sitting in front of a bright light box for 20-30 minutes a day, but within the first hour of waking up. The light box produces white light that mimics sunlight and releases a chemical in your brain which boosts your mood.
Morning (or dawn) simulators are essentially an alarm clock which gradually wakes you up. They simulate sunlight, increasing in strength the closer it gets to the set time to wake up. The best ones use full-spectrum light which is as close to sunlight as it gets.
Researchers found morning simulators to be as successful for treating mild SAD as light box therapy.
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
Not only is exercise important for treating depression because of its endorphin release, but when it comes to keeping SAD at bay, doing exercise outside can work wonders. For sufferers of SAD, maintaining enough sunlight during the day is crucial, hence light therapy and morning simulators. However, nature connectedness, or feeling close to nature, has been proven time and time again to improve our mental health.
The Mental Health foundation says: “Research shows that people who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile. Nature can generate a multitude of positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, creativity and can facilitate concentration.”
Mixing exercise with nature can be extremely beneficial for treating SAD and depression.
Choose light, natural paint colours
Creating an environment which invites as much natural light as possible can help fight SAD. As already mentioned, sunlight is a proven cure to SAD; adding natural colours and a well placed colour scheme in your home will help trick your brain into thinking there is more light than the reality.
You can also incorporate this into the accessories you use. A redecorating project might be too much work to execute, so by adding cushions, throws, small furniture items and lighting can be an easier way to create a natural and lighter environment to work and relax in.
Also, using different shades and tones which reflect and ignite connotations of the outside world can help. Use earthy tones of navy, yellows and greens to help encourage positive thoughts of nature: the sea, sky, sun, plants, forests, and trees.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sufferers of SAD are known to struggle with sleep; notably struggling to switch off at a reasonable time which then impacts their ability to wake up in the morning. Sleep is extremely important for us to function properly on a day-to-day basis. Making the bedroom as comfortable and zen-like as possible should be a number one priority for those with SAD.
We are often told the bedroom should be a no-go zone for our devices. Before getting into bed, make sure the room is clear of any mess from the day and resembles a serene environment. Instead of scrolling or watching a TV show in bed, try reading a book. Reading helps the mind switch off, can help increase focus and often improves the quality of sleep.
Lavender has been proven to help relax and clear the mind, as well as helping you unwind. Using Lavender scented pillow sprays and pulse point roll ons can be another way to help encourage a serene environment before sleep. They can also be used to destress during the day, so are not strictly limited to being used when it’s time to hit the pillow.
Add relaxing scents
Lavender helps the bedroom, but there are other scents you can use around the home to create a relaxing environment.
Candles and diffusers are the easiest way to add calm scents to your home. Focus on notes of eucalyptus, pine and cedar-wood; all of which have been proven to increase productivity and relax the mind. These scents can have a surprisingly big impact on wellbeing and is an incredibly easy way to help combat seasonal affective disorder.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you might also like: How did you sleep? Expert shares tips for a restless night’s sleep.
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