72°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Seasonal depression

With summer now gone, temperatures are beginning to drop, and we are beginning to see less and less sunshine. Of course, fall is one of my favorite seasons, but I know the exhausting winter is following right behind it. Despite the positives of the upcoming cold seasons, this time of year can actually greatly impact one’s mental health. The environment and climate around us have a significant role in how we may be feeling, not only externally but internally as well. Statistically, seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect almost ten million Americans and is said to be four times more likely to be diagnosed in women than it is in men (1). Symptoms of SAD include “feelings of hopelessness, change in appetite, hypersomnia, drop in activity levels, weight gain, fatigue” and so on (1). Some people may disregard these symptoms as unimportant, typical, and nothing to care about. However, I disagree, and I believe that it is important to take care of one’s mental health. I encourage those who may have symptoms of SAD to look more into the topic and possibly reach out for medical treatment and a medical diagnosis. 

 

I wanted to research more on this topic and write about some tips and advice that I came across. The first tip being to use light therapy to combat seasonal affective disorder and its symptoms. The largest cause of SAD in individuals is changes in their exposure to sunlight. Studies show that light therapy daily could “help improve the mood in 60 percent to 80 percent of people with SAD” (2). Light therapy boxes contain white fluorescent light tubes that are protected with a plastic screen, to block UV rays from the user. Boxes can range up to 10,000 lux light and it is recommended by many health professionals to sit in front of a light therapy box for about 30 minutes every morning (2). This can simulate the sun exposure a lot of people with SAD are missing out on and can help alleviate some symptoms of the disorder. 

 

Another common tip was to try to create a workout routine that works for you. Due to the winter climate, a lot of individuals with SAD suffer from a lack of physical activity. Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea recommends this tip himself as he explains that “moving your body will compete with that tendency to be sluggish and can produce good brain chemistry” (2). There are a lot of ways to include physical activities into your daily routine, such as maybe doing a half hour to an hour of yoga in the morning, or walking on a treadmill before bed at night, or even taking on fun winter sport activities such as skiing or ice skating. Staying active may be hard, so take your time with it! Implement these activities into your schedule as slow and as easy as you would like. Any progress is still progress, and this is a great step in the right direction. You could also reach out to friends and family to maybe partake in these exercises and activities with you as a possible motivation factor. 

 

The last few tips I found related to eating a well-balanced diet and taking in the right vitamins and minerals for your body. When adjusting your diet for the winter, it is recommended to include foods that contain more iron, B12, Omega-3, and Vitamins A, C, and/or D (3). Green vegetables like spinach, leafy green, and spinach are great sources of iron and good vitamins. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are also a good addition to your diet as they are high in B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help boost one’s mood (3). If you have more of a sweet tooth, grab yourself some nice dark chocolate as it can improve your mood and boost your endorphins (3). 

 

These were only a few common tips I had found during my research. However, I encourage you to look more into this topic and read more on these tips for yourself! My research has been very intriguing to me and has encouraged me to take greater care of my mental health as we near the end of the year. I am personally going to be implementing some of these tips into my routine this winter to hopefully combat the winter blues and boost my mood. I encourage you to do so too! If you happen to be feeling more severe symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and are having suicidal thoughts, please call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. This helpline can help refer you to local treatment facilities, therapy centers, help groups, and other resources to possibly help (4). Know that you are not alone!

 

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

  2. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-best-strategies-help-fight-seasonal-affective-disorder/

  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14080-eating-to-lift-your-winter-blues

  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline