SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder most commonly experienced in the autumn/winter months when there is less sunlight. It’s also common for work hours to fall over the majority of the daylight hours, meaning more people are travelling in the sunrise/sunset period and spending most of the day cooped up indoors.
This can play havoc on our moods and our natural rhythm, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep, shortening our mood and making the day feel a lot longer. Luckily, due to the nature of SAD occurring during the colder, darker months, we will start to feel more like ourselves come the springtime. However, if you’ve been feeling the harsh affects of SAD, here are simple pick me ups that work no matter the time of day;
Mindfulness is the act of being more aware of the present moment and can have huge benefits when practised regularly, both for our mental health and our self-esteem. To best practise mindfulness, you only need to catch yourself in a moment where your thoughts are starting to influence your mood and actions, in either a negative or positive way. It is the act of catching yourself before doing something impulsive or negative and rechannelling your thoughts to be in the moment and focus on how we see ourselves in that moment.
Make it a habit to practice mindfulness every day. Whether it’s taking a different route on the way to work and indulging your senses in your surroundings or simply taking a few minutes after work to sit and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells going on around you.
Volunteer or Give Back
Seasonal affective disorder makes us feel down, sad and unmotivated. If left unchecked, SAD can develop into depression so it’s best to act soon as you or someone close to you notices a difference in your temperament. A fantastic way to defend yourself against SAD is to keep busy and give back to your local communities or even further afield. You could volunteer your time, supporting charity shops or homeless facilities or if you don’t have a lot of time to spare, offer a donation to a local charity, including dedicated Muslim Charities in the UK or national animal rescue groups.
Invest in a SAD Light
The main cause of SAD is a lack of vitamin D that we absorb naturally from sunlight. Some therapies suggest that sitting by a special type of light, known as a SAD light, for a set time each morning can improve your mood throughout the day. The lights are designed to help naturally reduce the amount of melatonin your brain is producing (the chemical that makes you feel sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that contributes to happy feelings). While SAD lights won’t work for everyone, they have been shown to make a difference for a vast majority of people tested so far and can be used for a few days, a week or through to the completion of the season.
Make the Most of the Day
While the mornings and evenings are getting darker faster, there is still daylight to be enjoyed during the day so make the most of it while the sun is up. Ask for a desk next to or closer to a window, arrange your breaks or lunchtime so you can get outside for a rejuvenating walk and let as much natural light into your working areas as possible.
Remember, although it affects a large amount of the population and only occurs during the darker months, SAD is still a mood disorder that can have a hugely negative impact on our overall wellbeing. If you feel the symptoms of SAD are overwhelming you, make sure to seek assistance or support from a supportive therapy group or from your doctor, who may recommend lifestyle changes or suggest a course of anti-depressants.
With the winter months fully underway, now is the time to prepare yourself for less sunlight and colder temperatures and beat SAD before it can get a hold on you.