As winter rages on, many Americans from northern climates may be in the throes of SAD, or seasonal affective disorder — a form of clinical depression that typically worsens as the seasons change. If you’re like most people with the condition, your symptoms are at their worst during the months with the shortest days — December, January, and February.
Interestingly enough, experts say those affected by SAD first experience symptoms between the ages of 18 and 30. This means that millennials may be more likely to experience ongoing symptoms that any other age group. However, millennials are growing up and starting to take wellness seriously. One indicator of this is the fact that 56% of millennials have visited a spa within the last year, according to the International Spa Association. With a greater focus on mental health awareness and treatment options, younger generations can find natural treatments that boost mood and relaxation.
Here are just a few natural treatment options to explore if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy is proven to be one of the most effective forms of natural treatment for seasonal affective disorder. Since natural sunlight comes in very limited quantities during the winter months, supplementing the amount you’re exposed to using a light box can help you see significant improvements in mood. Many experts say that light therapy is the best treatment available.
Although the effects of light therapy don’t last too long, getting just 15 to 30 minutes of light therapy each morning can boost your mood for the rest of the day. Light boxes are available without a prescription, but if possible, it’s recommended to consult a health professional before use due to the fact that the treatment involves UV exposure.
Eating healthy foods can be difficult when your body craves sweets and other junk food, but it’s important to do what you can to try to make healthy replacements whenever possible. Figure out which healthy foods you enjoy, and then incorporate them into as many meals as you can. And don’t be mistaken — contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about nutrition facts. During your next trip to the grocery store, take some time to look at ingredients. A bit of research into our food industry will provide insight regarding many ingredients that are incredibly common in today’s processed foods, yet come with some unsavory health effects that can even affect mood. A good rule of thumb is that the fewer ingredients something has, the cleaner and less processed it is. Again, making small replacements here and there can really help you develop a cleaner diet.
If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep as a result of seasonal affective disorder, you may have already tried some natural remedies, like having a cup of tea at bedtime or turning off the television early. But if these methods aren’t doing the trick, using the elements of sound may help you ease into restful sleep. Even something as simple as a beating watch next to your pillow can help soothe your senses and lull you to sleep. The beat of a watch is the sound of it “ticking,” usually about 1/5 of a second — the escape wheel striking the pallets produces the sound. Of course, you can also invest in a sound machine for a wider variety of sounds, or take to YouTube for the virtually infinite white noise options.
These options may help to provide temporary relief from the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder. However, they certainly do not replace the informed advice of a medical professional. While you might not be joining the approximately 110 million ER visits that occur annually, you have resources. There are plenty of medical professionals whose sole job is to help patients who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues. And of course, if you or someone you love is in immediate danger due to poor mental health, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day to provide confidential support through both cellular and online chat.
No matter how you look at it, the facts speak volumes: over 80% of depressed individuals do not seek out professional help. And regardless of the type or cause of your depression, understanding natural treatment options and knowing when to reach out to a professional is the key to improving your quality of life.