A type of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically crops up during wintertime. The exact cause is unknown, but researchers believe it’s closely tied to the lack of sunlight that colder months bring, which disrupts your circadian rhythm and serotonin levels. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood.)
Women are diagnosed more often than men, but you’re also more likely to suffer from SAD if you live far from the equator (where there’s a lack of all-important sunshine) or if you or your family have a history of depression. Be on the lookout for red flags, such as loss of energy, feelings of hopelessness and social withdrawal.
Stay on the sunny side with these proactive ways to ward off SAD:
- Up your daily dose of vitamin D. Throw back the curtains, and open a window or two.
- Bundle up and dine al fresco. A lunch at the park can be especially serene in the winter.
- Take a hike. Regular exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, common symptoms of SAD. Plus, the endorphins won’t hurt, either.
Note: It’s normal to have ups and downs, but if you’re feeling depressed for days at a time, don’t try to tough it out on your own. Your health care provider might be able to offer medications or therapy—so pay doc a visit, and ask for help.