What is SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD or seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression brought on typically by a change in season. While there are some rare cases of patients who get depressed annually in summer, most seasonal affective disorder sufferers find that their depression starts in autumn and gets progressively worse over winter. Hence the term “Winter Blues.”
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Feeling down, or sad for a prolonged period of time
Losing interest in activities that you normally enjoy
Social withdrawal as interaction becomes too much like work
Increased appetite especially for carbohydrate rich foods.
Feelings of hopelessness
Loss of energy and the need to sleep longer and take naps in the day
Deterioration in memory and other cognitive functions - especially decision making.
If you have many of these symptoms and they are severe, it is best to talk to your doctor. But if you are a repeat sufferer, and feel the symptoms of SAD coming on – then try the self-treatment option below:
Best Treatment for SAD
The best treatment of, or way of preventing seasonal affective disorder, is light. Lots of it. You may have been recommended to buy a light box. You may already have one. And if you have a sufficiently bright light (minimum 10.000 lux) you will know whether or not it works for you. But even more effective, and free, is to get outdoors and into a big sky area.
Natural light is the best type of light for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is the type of light our bodies crave as the days get shorter, and the mornings and evenings darker. A half an hour outdoors, in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest, even on a day with light cloud cover, is better than any artificial light you could buy. And not only do you get light, you also get some fresh air, and a bit of exercise.
Why Big Sky?
Big sky is a term that refers to an unobstructed view of the sky for miles around, in every direction. You get it in the middle of open countryside or at the top of a mountain. Light streams at you from every direction. There are no trees to obstruct the light, no buildings shading you. Every square mile of sky is firing millions of photons of light at you.
Of course if you live in a city, it can be hard to find somewhere with unobstructed views for miles. But you can get close to Big Sky by finding any large outdoor space. A sports field or a public park. A roof garden or patio that lifts you higher than neighbours buildings. The edge of a lake or large reservoir. Look up at the sky. Now, although your view of what is on the ground is obstructed by the limits of what is on the edge of this open space, you will notice that you can see a much bigger expanse of sky - and all that sky is bringing light to your eyes and your body. (Do you ever notice an urge to take a deep breath when you can see so much sky? Maybe it's the body telling us to make the most of this opportunity to re-energize).
So instead of lurking along the edge of that park or playing field, or sitting on a bench near trees, get into the middle of your open space and walk up and down where it's brightest. Stand in your roof garden and do some gentle yoga or stretches. Walk or run along the North side of a lake or reservoir to make the most of light streaming from the South.
Or even better, play in this open space and get double the benefit!