Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is more common the further you get from the equator either north or south. I have worked with many clients who suffer from S.A.D. and have found a number of strategies effective. A S.A.D. lamp is a good start. Get a good one that has a full spectrum of light and big enough that you can sit in front of it and read the morning paper. Although reading an average paper can be depressing in itself. You should spend twenty minutes in front of it with it just above eye level pointing down on you. Then it won’t blind you and you can use it to illuminate what you choose to read.
The next strategy is to regulate your sleep. Most people with S.A.D. also suffer from sleep disorders. Their circadian rhythm is out of whack and the judicial use of melatonin will help them get back into a natural sleep pattern that works for them. The trick with melatonin is to take it at the same time each night about an hour before you go to bed. You should go to bed and rise at the same time each day and when you have a few good nights of normal sleep stop the melatonin. Eight hours works best for most people but this is up to you. Some people get by fine with six but until you know what works best for you try for eight.
Diet is the next thing to deal with. Eat lots of greens, olive oil, lots of salmon, sardines, and herring and lean chicken. Start your day with a large bowl of oat meal with walnuts, currents and almonds for breakfast. Avoid wheat of any kind, fast foods, corn syrup, processed foods and sugar. If you need some sugar for your sweet tooth use a raw cane sugar or honey. Take supplements like, wild salmon oil, Vitamin D, B3 (no flush niacin) and C. Avoid excess alcohol (one drink a day is good for you, less is more with alcohol.
The last strategy is anaerobic exercise every second day. Start out at a minimum of twenty minutes, which will seem like a life time when you first start. Build this up over a few months to a minimum of an hour and then keep it at an hour or more for the long term. By anaerobic I mean exercising at a rate that if you were working out with someone you would not have the extra wind to have a conversation. It drives me crazy when I work at a gym and two people on those giant exercise bikes that have seats like a tractor are busy talking away and pedaling at a cadence of about thirty revolutions a minute. If on a bike keep your cadence to eighty five a minute up hills, on the flat and down hills. Use your gears to keep it as close to that as possible. If power walking keep up a pace that would be easier if you broke into a slow run and don’t forget to use your arms.
We get stressed out in our daily life. Our flight or fight mechanism was designed to experience stress, a threat or a promise of a meal, and then to react to it. Since we have been domesticated we just suck it up when the boss, the wife, the husband, the cop or whoever stands up to us and says no or wait or go back. The (nor) epinephrine, (nor) adrenaline and like compounds that are excreted by our adrenal and other glands fill our blood with go fast compounds that can cause anxiety, depression and sleep disorders if they are left floating around in our bloodstream. Eventually this can lead to a chronic cortisol response that sooner or later can lead to heart problems even arthritis. So burn it off with anaerobic exercise for at least twenty minutes and then when it’s gone your brain will reward with you an endorphin rush. It is your body saying, “Good boy” or “Good girl”.
S.A.D. can be profoundly affected by anaerobic exercise every second day that when compounded with a S.A.D. lamp, a good diet and the correct use of melatonin can turn a person’s life around without the use of SSRIs or expensive therapy. Some people may need all of the above but if exercise, diet, melatonin and a good S.A.D. lamp are used first I can almost guarantee that if an anti depression med or therapy is needed it will be to only tweak their mood not jump starting them from a stalled position.
So don’t be S.A.D., you can get some control over this syndrome if you take the initiative.