Find ways to combat the winter blues and seasonal affective disorder.

If you begin showing symptoms of depression this time of year, you’re not alone. The ever-shortening days of late autumn cause many people to feel down. Those who experience this sensation can feel it physically as well as emotionally.

Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) is, in part, a result of the body’s increased production of melatonin due to the change in season. Holidays can be another contributing factor to SAD and can bring about feelings of remorse, regret, fear and anger, among others.

Why some people fall victim to SAD, while others do not, is not yet fully understood. But those who do exhibit symptoms can experience anxiety, apathy, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, overeating, irritability, withdrawal and lethargy.

The good news is that, like depression and anxiety, SAD is treatable. SAD sufferers don’t have to accept and live with their depressed mood. Here are a few solutions that may help with this condition:

LIGHT: The solution may be as simple as getting a little more exposure to sunlight every day. Increased exposure to sunlight or phototherapy with bright, full-spectrum artificial light is often an effective way to lower melatonin levels.

EXERCISE: Maintaining a fitness regimen can help alleviate SAD. Get yourself moving, even if it’s a short, midday stroll around the block when the sun is brightest. Outline a schedule that enables you to consistently incorporate exercise into your routine.

DIET: Eating a healthy diet of leafy greens, lean proteins, omega oils and cold-pressed juices helps diminish, or even avoid, depressive episodes. Try limiting your sugar intake and reducing your alcohol consumption. Creating a meal plan that incorporates a variety of food groups into your diet will help maximize your brain’s capacity to ward off sadness and create a sense of well-being.  

JOURNALING: Writing down your thoughts can have a positive impact on your mental health. Journaling can get negative feelings out of your system, and also fill your heart with joy when expressing your gratitude for life’s blessings.   

AROMATHERAPY: Add a few drops of essential oils to a bath in the evening to help you relax and promote restoration in the body and influence your mood.

MEDITATION: This can help quiet your mind and decrease anxiety. If you are feeling depressed this time of year, consult a mental health practitioner. While SAD may be affecting your mood and happiness, you may also be experiencing sadness around the holidays for complex reasons unrelated to SAD. Understanding the causes of SAD can help us take common-sense measures to avoid or diminish its effects. Don’t let the seasonal change impact your joy over the holidays.

Gregory Jantz, Ph.D., founder of The Center A Place of HOPE and best-selling author of 36 books, including 5 Keys to Dealing with Depression. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz is a go-to media source and sought-after speaker for a range of behavioral and dependency.