It’s officially Spring! However, the weather has been unpredictable with warm weather one day and cold the next. It’s a time of year that many people anticipate with excitement, yet there are many that feel worse and are struggling with melancholy.
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues,” is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year.
Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months. Although less common, seasonal depression can also occur in the summer or spring.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of the less frequently occurring summer and spring seasonal affective disorder include:
- Poor appetite with associated weight loss
- Episodes of violent behavior
Fortunately, there are ways to boost your mood. Here are 7 of the best expert-backed strategies:
- Soak up morning sunshine.
Get as much sun as possible to get exposure to natural light right when the body is waking up. Light therapy has been a mainstay of treatment for SAD since the 1980s. The idea behind light therapy is to replace the diminished sunshine of the fall and winter months using daily exposure to bright, artificial light.
Symptoms of SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, on a daily basis. Most typically, light boxes filter out the ultraviolet rays and require 20-60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light, an amount that is about 20 times greater than ordinary indoor lighting.
- Get outside.
Studies confirm that spending time outside can relieve stress, so bundle up and brave the cold for at least five minutes to lift your spirits. Going for a walk in the morning after sunrise can be especially effective, “It gets light to the retina, but it’s also physical activity.” Two birds with one stone!
- Maintain your routine.
Don’t neglect your favorite hobbies. You’ll feel better knowing you’re still making it to your weekly book club, basketball game or dinner with friends.
- Work it out.
During an intense gym session, the brain works hard to override the temporary feelings of discomfort by telling the body to keep pushing. You’ll naturally release endorphins, which will make you feel happier and even euphoric.
- Ditch the sugar.
It’s common knowledge that too much of the sugary stuff will make us gain weight and puts us at risk for developing diabetes and certain cancers. And research shows that sugar has a sour effect on mental health, too. These treats will ultimately leave you sluggish. Instead, opt for eating complete meals with good sources of protein and fiber.
- Practice relaxation.
Some down dog could help you get out of the dumps. Practicing yoga, studies show, can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, research on meditation reveals that breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises can actually change neural networks and decrease stress.
- Book a trip.
Prepare for takeoff, because quality vacation time will certainly boost your mood. Those that suffer from seasonal depression will benefit from additional sunshine if they head south, and taking a break from work is important for anyone’s mental health. Studies show that people even experience pleasure from anticipating trips.
Hopefully, using these 7 tips will make the transition into Spring a smooth one. If you’re in the Silver Spring area, learn more about our 5 week RESTART Program. RESTART is aimed to help you take control of your nutrition, mood and maximize your energy. Our next session starts April 23rd and will include a 30 minute yoga component!
If your spring is clouded by the loss of a loved one, please check out our New Normal support group that combines the healing power of yoga and a community of other adults who can relate and grow with you to find peace, learn more here.