It’s that time of year again. As the leaves change and temperatures drop, we can’t help but anticipate pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, and crisp autumn air.
Still, with fall’s charm comes an unwelcome guest for many of us: seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With these strategies, we can all get ahead of the game and keep our spirits high this season.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a form of depression that typically kicks in as the days get shorter and sunlight becomes more scarce. It impacts millions around the globe, with symptoms including low mood, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, and increased sleepiness.
Essentially, SAD can turn a season of comfort and joy into a period of gloom and despair. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on and discover what you can do to combat SAD this fall.
1. Embrace the Outdoors
One thing that can seriously take the edge off your seasonal affective disorder is spending more time in the sun whenever it’s out. Because a lack of sunlight due to weather and shorter days is a primary trigger for seasonal downturns in your mood, making time to spend some time outdoors when the sun does make an appearance is key.
Even if you just spend fifteen minutes sitting near the window when the sun’s out, it can be enough to boost your mood. If you’re leaving so early in the morning that it’s dark out and returning home after the sun sets, try to use your lunch break to take a walk in the daylight to keep your mood up.
2. Get Active With a NASM Certified Personal Trainer
We’ve all heard the adage, “Exercise is good for the mind and the body.” Well, when it comes to managing SAD, this has never been more true. Regular exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brain that can offset the symptoms of SAD.
Need help finding the motivation to hit the gym? Or trying to figure out where to start? No problem. A NASM certified personal trainer can make all the difference. They’re pros at creating exercise routines that are fun, challenging, and — most importantly — tailored to your individual needs and abilities.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating healthily might seem like advice for physical well-being, but it’s also vital for our mental health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains helps keep our energy levels steady and our minds sharp.
Let’s not forget the mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Next time you’re meal planning, put some extra thought into how you’re eating might improve your mood. That often means prioritizing certain nutrients — but sometimes, it means listening to your cravings and indulging in a treat here and there, too.
4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness involves staying present in the moment, while meditation helps us clear our minds and find peace. Both can significantly reduce stress and increase overall happiness. Take a few minutes each day to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and just be? It may sound simple, but it could do wonders for your mood this fall.
5. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Good sleep is not just a luxury — it’s a necessity, especially when dealing with SAD. The reduced sunlight in the fall can mess with our body’s internal clock, leading to feelings of depression and lethargy.
Put some effort into setting a consistent sleep schedule, even if it’s a challenge to begin with. Hitting the hay and waking up at the same time each day can reinforce our body’s sleep-wake cycle and help alleviate symptoms of SAD.
6. Connect With Others
When the temperatures drop, it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode. But isolating ourselves can make SAD symptoms worse. Stay connected this fall, even if you need to push yourself to leave the house a little bit. Regularly checking in with friends and family and joining social activities or online groups can help us feel more upbeat and less alone.
7. Try Light Therapy
Sunlight has left the chat, but we can mimic it! Light therapy involves sitting near a device called a light therapy box that gives off bright light. This light can help regulate our mood and reset our internal clock when the days are gloomy and daylight hours seem impossibly short.
Harvest Happiness This Fall
When it comes to seasonal affective disorder, as with many mental health concerns, it’s not necessarily something you can prevent altogether. Your body functions in the way that it does — but it is important to have some coping mechanisms to help you work with your body to promote better mental health as we head into the fall season, especially if you’re prone to SAD.
While fall brings shorter days, let’s remember it also brings beautiful autumn leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and many other wonderful things we can take some time to celebrate.