Freezing weather, short hours of sunlight, and less physical activity, are all contributing ingredients of a winter condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (Appropriately referred to as SAD). SAD is classed as a subset of a mood disorder which, while it can appear throughout the year, generally occurs in the winter season. The symptoms include virtually no energy, sleeping constantly or for very long hours, excessive binge eating, anxiety, and depression. It has also been called a major depressive disorder and part of SAD, likely from such low energy, is a withdrawal from social interactions. Generally, around 3-6% of the North American and UK population suffer substantially from SAD.
There appear multiple culprits that pinpoint the causes of SAD. The predominant factor is that in winter there is substantially less sunlight and, when there is, the cold keeps people indoors. Sunlight is essential for acquiring Vitamin D while hibernating indoors is not conducive to health. The hibernator remains substantially less active, with little sunlight, and removes themselves from socializing. There is also feelings of sluggishness, problem focusing, and a sense of losing interest in activities that once brought pleasure. SAD generally reaches its peak for most sufferers between the months of December to March and its degree can vary from slightly feeling the winter blues to severe depression and even suicidal ideation. Therefore, SAD is a serious condition that requires effective treatment at its early onset.
Fortunately for many people treatment can be cost efficient and simple. The most popular method is a process called Light Therapy. The best Light Therapy, of course, is from going outside and being exposed to (direct) sunlight. However, the dark, cold days of winter makes this challenging and so the addition of an affordable Sun Lamp or other Bright Light Therapy Devices have proved extremely effective in warding off SAD. The study developed in the early 1980s when Dr. Andrew Lewy discovered that artificial light is a major defense for alleviating symptom of SAD. While it is a commonly mistaken belief that the Ultraviolet Sun lamps provide vitamin D, from their extreme brightness they harmonize the SAD suffers cycadean sleep patterns or rhythm to a degree that is more natural. When a SAD suffer awakes in the dark they experience almost jet lag that last throughout their day. Doses of Bright Light from a sun lamp helps someone with SAD wake feeling more refreshed and energized. With over 60% of documented improvement from this therapy, it remains the first go to for those with SAD or generalized depressive symptoms. Even for those feeling slightly down or drowsy, light therapy has been described as having energizing effects akin to a strong cup of coffee.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another form of treatment that involves more of a mental commitment. Rather than simply flipping the switch of a sun lamp while doing work, CBT involves challenging unwanted thoughts and a concerted effort on mindfulness. Certain negative or self-effacing thought patterns have over time formed tracks in the brain which CBT tries to break or reroute on a better path. Practicing CBT with a therapist or even on one’s own lets the SAD suffer identify depressive thoughts and remold them. CBT in conjunction with Light Therapy have shown to be very beneficial and, beyond dismantling negative thinking, teaches mental skills for improvement in the person’s overall lifestyle and choices.
A severe SAD sufferer is in a thick fog. They do not want to get out of bed let alone their home. The next form of treatment forces the sufferer to do just that. Exercise, physical activity, or sports have consistently proven to strengthen both emotional and mental health. That initial push out the door can be the biggest challenge, but it is so important given all the benefits on offer. Just as jumping in cold swimming pool seems daunting yet is needed to acclimatize to the water and enjoy a refreshing swim. The great part of physical activity is that it encourages a schedule and routine, tasks that are often lacking in a person in the depths of depression or SAD. The person can then feel an extra motivation to get up in the morning for a jog, or join a group of friends for a game of basketball. To add an extra incentive someone with SAD can even sign-up for a class, such as Yoga, that both combine mindfulness and exercise. The fact that they have paid creates an extra form of commitment to get out of the house. All the individual has to remember is that they can go at their own pace and with what they feel comfortable with. After a combination of light therapy and CBT, for instance, they may feel better able to take a walk around their block. After this, they can graduate to healthier lifestyle changes.
Another great way to start to find a way out of the SAD fog is to incorporate enjoyable and relaxing activities in the home. This can involve listening to your favourite music, or even watching movies about exotic locations so that you think sunshine and relaxing on the beach. The mind is very powerful and visualizing these locations can help put you in a better place. There are also a number of meditative games that can be played, such as those offered by online casino sites. These online slots have a variety of themes to choose from, are visually immersive, and very engaging. For example, there are calming slots such as NetEnt’s ‘Lights’ online or ‘Strolling Staxx’, Eyecon’s ‘Crystal Lotus’, or Yggdrasil’s ‘Golden Fish Tank’. In terms of health, Yggdrasil also has a unique online slot entitled ‘Cyrus the Virus’ and another medical themed game is NextGen’s ‘Dr. Love’. The online slots have a straightforward gameplay of 5 reels, 3 to 4 rows, a set number of payways, and many features and bonuses with exciting chances to win real money. The ease of gameplay, relaxing themes, as well as the exciting wins on offer, can help those with SAD seeking a boost of energy.
SAD is a serious condition and as such it needs to be treated seriously. The final step of treatment usually involves anti-depressant medication; however, it is recommended that sufferers first attempt a combination of the non-medical solutions such as light therapy, CBT, and incorporating certain activities into their everyday living.