9 Ways to Combat Shorter Days and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something many people struggle with each year. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, life can start to feel a little dimmer. This year, because of the pandemic, SAD sufferers have it even worse. Atop already-underlying feelings of depression or lethargy, the raging pandemic and all that comes along with it is pushing many people further down into a hole.

But, as with any cloud, there’s a silver lining to living with SAD in 2020. People are acutely aware of how difficult times are, which means more people are making a concerted effort to get ahead of their symptoms and to provide support for others who may be feeling gloomy.

If you’re feeling the effects of SAD this year, do everything you can to nip them in the bud early and to stay on top of them. Here are nine ways to combat the melancholy that comes with shorter days and dark times.

  1. Eat better. Diet has a big impact on mood. Being mindful of what you’re putting in your body can help you stave off unwanted feelings associated with SAD. Cut back on sugars and processed foods, and try to eat healthy, whole, natural foods. Giving your body good, clean, nutritional food is going to raise your mood and help you feel better.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. When you suffer from SAD, you might want to spend all day in bed, wrapped in a blanket. Instead, just get a good night’s sleep. Restful sleep will improve your mood and your mental health, while boosting your energy levels. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll be ready to face the day… no matter how short it may be.
  3. Stop doomscrolling. Put down the phone and step away! Screen time is linked to depression, made worse by SAD. Be mindful of how much scrolling you’re doing and discipline yourself to limit social media time—even if all you want to do is scroll endlessly until bedtime. You’ll see immediate mood improvements when you lower your screen time.
  4. Find your people. It may seem difficult to form meaningful connections with people during the pandemic, but building a support network is vital for SAD sufferers. You need people to talk to about your feelings and people who can build you up on bad days. Reach out to friends and family via video chat and find opportunities to spend time with them (at a distance, of course).
  5. Be present. People will SAD tend to tune out the world around them. It’s just easy to shut it off when everything becomes too overwhelming. But this is the opposite of what you should do! Be mindful and present when challenges and obstacles arise, and take the time to confront them. This feeling of empowerment will help you fight back against SAD and subliminal feelings of depression.
  6. Use a light box. Shorter days are a big catalyst for SAD, which makes getting a little light a great way to combat it. A light box is recommended by clinical psychologists as a great alternative to natural sunlight. Put one in a room of your home you spend lots of time in—like the bedroom or living room—and let the light wash over you. You might be surprised at how much your mood improves with a little light!
  7. Supplement vitamin D. Part of the reason light is so instrumental in combatting SAD is because UV light provides our bodies with vitamin D. Many SAD sufferers have a vitamin D deficit in the winter months, which leaves them vulnerable to illness. Vitamin D can perk up your immune system, which helps you feel better at a time of year when you might not be feeling your best—a benefit that’s doubly important during COVID-19.
  8. Keep busy. Lethargy and apathy are hallmarks of SAD. It can be hard to get motivated when there are so many factors going against you this time of year! Finding the power to take baby steps towards staying busy will give you the strength to stand up against SAD. You don’t need to clean the whole house—start with a load of laundry. You don’t need to run a marathon; start with a mile. Incremental steps will keep you busy, which will keep you feeling accomplished.
  9. Do enjoyable things. When you’re depressed or anxious, it’s hard to find fun in anything. Make yourself a list of fun things to do so that when you’re feeling blue, you’ve got a readymade list of pick-me-up activities. It could be as simple as video chatting with mom or enjoying a nice hot shower—whatever will give you a toehold to a better mood.

This time of year is difficult for many people—this year especially because of COVID-19 and all that’s happening in the world. It’s easy to get down or find reasons not to look at the bright side of things. Remember—that’s just SAD talking. There are things you can do to put yourself in a better mood and find the positivity in your situation. Start with these 9 methods for combatting shorter days and SAD symptoms.

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