Winter is here. If you’ve lived through a cold, wet, snowy winter, you know that the weather affects how you feel. When the seasons change, many of us experience a change in energy or mood. Some of us experience significant changes and may even meet the criteria for seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of major depressive disorder that recurs seasonally. Like major depression, SAD is serious, overwhelming, and debilitating. One of the primary causes of SAD is light deprivation. The farther you are from the equator, the more likely you are to have seasonal affective disorder. Take comfort in the fact that regardless of whether you have SAD or the winter blues, there are proven ways to cope.

Lighten up. Light therapy can be as effective as antidepressants for treating seasonal affective disorder. You should meet with your doctor to discuss whether you’re a good candidate for light therapy. The right light box can help you feel more energized during the day and sleep well at night.

Get out of town. If winter travel works for your budget, go someplace sunny. The anticipation of planning a trip causes a significant increase in happiness, and the sunlight you’ll absorb while on vacation will have a big impact on your overall mood.

Move your body. There are very few mental health disorders that do not respond positively to exercise. Do what you can to move your body every day. There are tons of free workout videos online so you can break a sweat without leaving the house.

Help others. Non-profit organizations need volunteers throughout the year, and the holiday season is a great time to start. Working to improve the lives of under-served and marginalized communities is a powerful experience – and one proven to improve your mental health.

Ask for help. Regardless of the weather, our emotions are all over the map during the holidays. A good therapist can help you understand the various factors that affect your mood and work with you to develop a holistic treatment plan to help you feel your best.

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