Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s late October. The leaves are turning, the skies are often gray all day, and the days are short. If you’re feeling a little SAD, there may be a good reason for it.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects an estimated 5% of the population in a significant way. Another ten to twenty percent may have mild SAD. Sad’s impact is higher the farther north you live. It is four times more common in women than in men.
As we slide into the holidays, you might feel less energetic, less enthusiastic about life, and have a desire to hibernate. My theory is the reason we have so many holidays in the fall and winter is because of the lack of sun. We put them there because we want something to cheer us up. Sadly, for many of us, the holidays are a real struggle. SAD exacerbates that struggle.
Exercise becomes more challenging to do. Ironically, while we are less active, we often crave high-calorie comfort foods, which can lead to weight gain, especially when coupled with less activity.
The Good News
There is good news. The older we get, the less like we are to succumb to SAD. SAD is, by definition, temporary. It’s seasonal. Once you recognize that you are susceptible to SAD, you are well on your way to dealing with it.
What You Can Do
Some things you can do are to make sure you get out in whatever light there is as much as you can. Plan a short walk during the day. It’s easier said than done, especially if you live in places that get ice and snow. I have set a routine that I stick to regardless of the weather or the amount of daylight. This time of year, I sometimes take a flashlight on my morning walks. Be grateful for the little things. I love to walk at sunrise. It’s easy to get up before the sun during these months. On a cold winter’s day, if there’s some sun, soak it in. The sun, when there is sun, shines in my bedroom window in the afternoon. I’ll take the opportunity to sit in the sun and meditate, killing two birds with one stone- getting in my meditation time and soaking in the sun. That’s what I’m doing here.
Supplementing with Vitamin D can help with SAD. Our vitamin D levels drop when we get less sunlight. For darker-skinned people, vitamin D year-round isn’t bad. You might need extra vitamin D in the the winter. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of symptoms including feeling tired, joint pain and even hair loss. If you have any questions, see your doctor.
If your SAD is significant, there are lights you can get that mimic sunlight. I used one for a couple of years and found that it helped.
For me, merely knowing that SAD is a real thing helped me significantly. As my energy levels drop in the fall and early winter, I know it’s natural and temporary. I go with it. I sleep in a bit later. I go to bed earlier. I watch my diet. I make sure to keep up my exercise routine. I’ve got December 22nd circled on my calendar. It’s just 61 days away now. The next day, there will be just a few more minutes of daylight, and we will be heading into days with more sun.
I discovered SAD quite a few years ago, and as you said just knowing about it helped me to understand my gray days better. SAD is real and NE Ohio has plenty of gray days. I usually manage to hold it at bay until January, after the major holidays. Though the holidays are much harder now without my son, they always gave me something to do and look forward to, something to focus to keep the SAD away. I turn on more lights in the house at all times of the day and gravitate more towards cheerful music to help.