Keep These 9 Things in Mind to Combat SAD

The days are growing shorter — and you might find your temper doing the same. Irritability is often the first sign of depression, and if your mood grows as dark as the days, you might feel touchy.

How can you combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? Here are nine things to keep in mind as we approach what poet Robert Frost called “the darkest evening of the year.”

1. Eat More Nuts

Why should you go a little nutty to keep from growing melancholy as the days shorten? Nuts are high in three vital nutrients — zinc, magnesium and selenium — that may help combat the seasonal blues.

Healthy young women given a zinc supplement showed fewer depressive signs than those on a multivitamin alone. A rodent study revealed that rats low in selenium had decreased levels of BDNF, an indicator of major depressive disorder. Magnesium supplementation works as well as antidepressants in reversing mild to moderate depression.

Don’t pass by that holiday nut tin. A single Brazil nut contains a full day’s serving of selenium, and if you eat a handful, you’ll get other vital antidepressant nutrients, too.

2. Watch Your Simple Starch Consumption

When the days grow short and cold, your cravings for sweets and starchy foods intensify. Think of the traditional Thanksgiving feast laden with yams and various stuffings. Unfortunately, these foods can stick to your waistline and result in unwanted pounds.

When this happens, the scale numbers add to your depression, which makes you want to eat more and stuff down negative emotions. Instead, look at your plate as a clock, and fill 30 minutes of it with cooked vegetables, raw salad or both.

3. Schedule Your Mealtimes

If you don’t follow structured mealtimes, you could fight the urge to snack all day. This behavior likewise packs on unwanted pounds.

Instead, schedule your mealtimes — write them in your planner if you must. Make your work desk a snack-free zone. As a bonus, you won’t get crumbs stuck in your keyboard.

4. Keep Your Body Moving

Exercise is one of the best ways to combat SAD or any depression form. Physical activity releases endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals that ease pain and give you a mood boost.

Working out when temperatures drop below freezing can prove challenging. Find something that you look forward to doing. Instead of forcing yourself to run two miles on icy sidewalks, take a Zumba class or work your whole body while getting more flexible in an Ashtanga yoga studio.

5. Get Outdoors

If possible, get outside every day. Your body can produce excess melatonin in winter, and this sleep hormone can make you feel like, well, hibernating.

Exposure to direct sunlight also increases your serotonin levels. This neurotransmitter plays a vital role in depression and a lack of it can increase the severity of SAD symptoms. Take a stroll on your coffee break or volunteer to walk to the office supply store one block down when your employer runs out of ink.

6. Light It Up

In their infinite mercy, the gods made UV therapy lamps available without a prescription — you can invest in one even if you lack health care coverage. While the real reason you can buy them OTC probably has something to do with patents, market shares and other legal-financial mumbo-jumbo, take advantage.

Let’s face it, if you commute to work and home in the dark and occupy a cubicle, you wither like a houseplant with insufficient sunlight. Buy one for home and work — it’s the next best thing to a stroll in the park.

7. Maintain Your Hobbies

As the days grow shorter, you might find you come home, collapse on the couch, then head to bed early without doing much else. Please try to muster the energy to keep up with your hobbies.

Why? These activities remind you that there is more to life than working, eating and sleeping. They restore your sense of passion and imagination — two powerful characteristics to fall back upon when it feels like life consists of nothing but drudging through the cold.

8. Accept Invitations

Likewise, your company’s office party invitation might fall on unwilling shoulders. However, you know it will benefit your career to go — plus, it might result in a mood-boost.

Loneliness and isolation can increase feelings of depression. If you want to combat SAD, please consider accepting invitations as often as possible. While you don’t have to RSVP “yes” to every invite and overexert yourself, you should select two or three events that matter most to attend.

9. Set a Regular Bedtime

Both a lack of sleep and too many Zzz’s can influence feelings of depression. Too much sleep can make it as challenging to get out of bed and start your day as too little.

When it seems dark more often than light, your sleep schedule and circadian rhythms become disrupted. Try to stick to your regular bedtime. If you awaken during the night, do a quiet activity like sipping chamomile or reading until you fall back asleep.

Combat SAD by Keeping These 9 Things in Mind

If you have SAD, combat it by using the nine tips above. By approaching the oncoming battle with your arsenals stocked with healthy habits, you can survive when Ned Stark declares, “Winter is coming,” again.


For more information on the importance of good sleep take a look here: