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5 easy ways to help combat SAD this winter

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people during specific times of the year, usually winter. Also referred to as 'winter depression' it affects around 20% of people in the UK.

People's mood can be affected by the weather, like when it's sunnier we seem to be in better moods, SAD is a genuine mental illness that can affect people's day-to-day life. People can be affected both in winter and summer, but people more commonly suffer in the winter. Symptoms of SAD include a lack of energy, low mood, irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

But what causes it?

The causes of SAD are unknown, it is thought to be related to the amount of melatonin in your body, which regulates sleep. As the days get shorter and it gets darker earlier, the body produces more melatonin which tends to leave people feeling tired and lethargic. The less sunlight we get, the worse we feel. It could also be related to our serotonin levels, and people that get SAD have trouble regulating those levels. Serotonin is involved in regulating your mood, so if you're feeling down it may be because you have low levels of it.

Easy ways to combat it:
1. Get a lightbox

Light therapy is the most effective treatment of SAD and usually works within two weeks for most cases. Seeking out as much light as possible can help your body regulate its production of melatonin. A simple way to introduce light therapy into your life is by buying an alarm clock that wakes you up with light. It recreates waking up to sunlight and will hopefully regulate your body clock while allowing you to wake up in a better mood and more energy. Other ways to get more light without using light therapy is by trying to spend more time outside, walk to lectures, eat your lunch outside the library instead of inside it, go for a run outside, it may be cold but getting some air will boost your mood.

2. Cut down on screen time

SAD will cause you to either sleep too much or you'll struggle to sleep at all. The light emitted from your devices is blue, which stops the production of melatonin. In the evening it's better to set your screen to have an orange-filter or use the night time feature on your phone. It'll help you sleep better and won't keep you up for hours after you've gone to bed.

3. Practice some self-care

If you find yourself really struggling with your mood then practicing some simple self-care acts can be an easy way to feel good about yourself. These can be the mundane from washing the dishes, having a shower to watching your favourite movie and doing a face mask. Another important act of self-care can also be doing a cleanse of your social media. If you find yourself wishing you had someone else's life or someone makes you feel unworthy then just unfollow them! Bad feelings, be gone.

4. Talk about it

Talking and being open about how you're feeling can be really important and leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted. You can talk to anyone you feel comfortable with, whether this is your housemate, best friend or someone in your family. If you feel like you can't speak to anyone then writing down your thoughts can also be just as helpful.

5. See a doctor

If you are really struggling with SAD and find it's affecting your day-to-day life then book an appointment with your doctor. They can assess you properly and offer solutions to your mood, like medication or therapy. Treatments can completely depend on the individual and it's important to get a proper diagnosis, so visiting a doctor can be a really important step however scary it may be.

Featured image Toa Heftiba on Unsplash