'Tis the Season: How to Cope with SAD

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Autumn is here! Unfortunately, with the darker days and colder temperatures, autumn also ushers in an unpleasant side effect for a large number of people: Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.

I have a mild form of SAD and know that it impacts me in a few ways, so I'm on a mission to help others since many people don't even realize they have this issue--and even those who do might not know there are simple treatment options. Let's see how many people we can help together! 

What is SAD?

SAD is a form of depression that happens at the same time each year (typically fall/winter) and is thought to be associated with a lack of sunlight.

Several days last week were cloudy in my area, and I could feel the effects from my mild form of SAD. The best way to describe my symptoms is that it feels like a slight "heaviness" descends upon me and affects my energy levels and concentration. I'm sure other people have different symptoms that are worse than mine. I immediately pulled out my lightbox (discussed below) and made sure to get outside for some sunshine.

I have become a fan of integrative medicine, which some people like and others don't. But it's important to note that SAD is not an alternative/integrative health concept and is very much accepted by mainstream medicine (though there are alternative approaches to SAD treatments).

I wanted to show this to my own family, so I decided to point them to the Mayo Clinic as a great source. Then, I decided to share this with my SparkPeople family :).

Top Points about SAD

Here are some notes I took from the Mayo Clinic's pages about SAD and other sources:

1) As mentioned by the Mayo Clinic, WEBMD, and many others, SAD is a form of depression. So, it's not "just the winter blues". If you have more than mild symptoms when the seasons change, it could be worth asking your doctor about this.

2) A possible cause of SAD is low serotonin levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, "A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression." I have had my serotonin levels tested, and they were lower than they should be.

3) Sunshine is a very effective treatment for SAD. Unfortunately, unlike sunlight, light therapy boxes don't appear to stimulate the production of Vitamin D, so it's still far more important to get as much sunshine as possible in the fall/winter. Another possible treatment, if recommended by your doctor/practitioner, is to supplement with high-quality vitamin D3.

4) The Mayo Clinic lists family history as a risk factor, stating that "People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression."

5) The Mayo Clinic also says, "Light therapy is one of the first-line treatments for fall-onset SAD. It generally starts working in a few days to two weeks and causes few side effects. Research on light therapy is limited, but it appears to be effective for most people in relieving SAD symptoms." I am not a super-expert at these devices, but this is the light therapy product I use. It is currently the #1 rated light therapy product sold on Amazon. For only $70, don't expect this to be the most rugged device ever, but I've had mine for a couple of years with no issues and have recommended it to others.

6) The SparkPeople program of a good diet and consistent exercise is very helpful in conjunction with the treatment of SAD. Exercise in particular can help you deal with stress, which can help with SAD.

Visualize this sunshine, and then go grab your own sunshine!

SAD Sharing

On my blog, I have listed several links for SAD support. If you or a loved one is experiencing SAD symptoms, I would strongly encourage you to check them out!

Also, I believe so much in sharing this issue with as many people as possible that if you forward this email to your family and friends and post that you did this on my blog, I will select a random winner and send them a signed copy of my New York Times Best Seller, The Spark.

Let's all work together to stay happy this fall/winter instead of being SAD!

Weekly Check-In

Check-in time! Just click to this blog and share any small steps you took to reach your goals the prior week OR a goal you have for the upcoming week.

Have a great week, everyone!



Chris (SparkGuy)