The fall season makes an entrance with colder nights and days that seem to elapse faster. Among the delightful aesthetic of fuzzy socks, cozy blankets and hot tea the season can feel anything but gloomy.
However, seasonal depression can make these pleasant autumn days feel more like a delusion. For those who suffer from this, the sadness can linger until the ice thaws, leaving one in a state of funk for months.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder is a pattern of depressive episodes that occur in the fall and winter. Some of the cognitive symptoms of a person experiencing seasonal affective disorder include feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating, experiencing changes in appetite and problems sleeping.
In order to counter a plummet into a gloomy mindset while experiencing seasonal affective disorder during the autumn and winter, here are four tips to follow.
1. Wake up early.
With the days appearing to end sooner as the sun sets earlier, getting sunlight is more difficult during this time. Waking up around 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and sitting under the sun can help boost your Vitamin D intake, which is a vital source of stabilizing a person’s mood, according to The Best Brain Possible, a health and wellness website.
There are many activities to do while sitting under the sun, such as reading a book, knitting, calling a friend or family member or just sitting and taking in the sounds of nature.
2. Soak up the sun indoors with light therapy.
The use of artificial light can help stabilize your moods without having to go outside. People with seasonal affective disorder can use light therapy, which generates white light through a lightbox — imitating the same light from the sun.
In an article for Harvard Health Dr. Paolo Cassano, an adult psychiatrist from Massachusetts General Hospital, said people can use light therapy to prevent seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Cassano said the adequate amount of white light a person should expose themselves to should be at 10,000 lux exposure; lux is a measure of light intensity.
He also said not to stare too deeply into the white light and to just remain exposed to the light for at least 30 minutes doing any stationary activity.
3. Eat foods rich in Vitamin D.
Another way to boost your mood is preparing a hearty meal filled with Vitamin D. Starting off your day with eggs, including the egg yolks, can boost Vitamin D intake. Other foods with high amounts of Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, sardines, mushrooms and foods with grains like cereal and oatmeal. Some fortified drinks are packed with Vitamin D, like soy milk, cow’s milk and orange juice. Supplements can also help decrease Vitamin D deficiency.
4. Keep track of too much sleep.
As the winter season emerges, melatonin production — the hormone that regulates sleep — increases as the days become darker sooner. With the increase of melatonin, people tend to desire more sleep and feel more lethargic. As much as sleep is beneficial for people’s overall health, too much sleep can lead to missing out on daily outdoor activities or time in the day to intake sunshine.
With an increased amount of melatonin, people’s biological clock or circadian rhythms are affected. The circadian rhythm helps regulate people’s sleep, but when thrown off with too much melatonin, the body can experience symptoms like mild depression and anxiety.
Keeping track of sleeping an adequate amount of time can reduce the risk of oversleeping and producing an unnecessary amount of melatonin.
Following these tips can help minimize seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Autumn can mark the start of some people’s mental health regression. However, these tips can help dissipate those bluish thoughts and revive the vibrant color in the fall leaves and the blazing sunsets of the winter dusk.