6 Scientifically Proven Ways to Feel Better About Shorter Days
Are darker days getting you down? Us, too. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s triggered by the change in seasons, and it affects roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults. These “winter blues” are marked by feelings of sadness, decreased energy levels, sleep problems and changes in appetite, among other symptoms. But the good news: You don’t have to wait until spring to start feeling like yourself again. Here are six research-backed ways to feel better ASAP.
Invest in a Light Therapy Box
No sun? No problem. These clever devices can be highly effective for reducing SAD symptoms by giving off bright light that’s approximately 100 times brighter than usual indoor lighting. Doctors recommend sitting in front of a box for 30 minutes a day to help beat the winter blues (keep your eyes open but don’t look directly at it), preferably in the morning. Speak to your doctor about where to get one or buy one online (just make sure it has an output of 10,000 lux or more and doesn't use UV rays).
Find Time to Exercise
You already know that working out is good for your waistline, but a recent Australian study found that regular exercise might play a hand in preventing cases of future depression. And researchers say that it doesn’t have to be intense exercise, either. Try going for a brisk walk every day or hitting up your local yoga studio a few times a week.
You know how a soothing bath at the end of a long day can help you relax? The next time you’re soaking in the tub, try adding a few drops of essential oil. Experts aren’t exactly sure why aromatherapy works but suspect that chemicals in the oils trigger smell receptors in the nose to send messages to the part of your brain that controls your mood. Jasmine and lavender are popular choices, and a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that essential oils from the poplar tree in particular were found to help depressive disorders.
Use Dawn Simulators
Instead of waking up to the blaring noise from your smartphone alarm, try a dawn simulator. It produces light that gradually increases (mimicking the sun) that could help those suffering from seasonal depression symptoms. That’s according to Russian researchers, who found that dawn simulators were as effective as light therapy for people with mild SAD. (But, um, maybe set a backup alarm, just in case.)
Up Your Vitamin D
A lack of sunshine means less opportunity for your body to soak up vitamin D—and research published in the journal Medical Hypotheses found a link to seasonal affective disorder. The solution? Pop a supplement. A study published in Nutrients found that people who took vitamin D saw significant improvement in their depression symptoms.
Talk About It
Don’t suffer in silence—if you’re feeling blue, find someone you can talk to. A study published in Psychiatry found that cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of talk therapy) was just as effective as light therapy in treating SAD. So if vitamin D and your trusty lamp don’t help, set up an appointment with your doctor or therapist to talk it out as soon as you can.