by Dr. W.D. Charmak
1. Light Therapy (Phototherapy): Expose yourself to bright light, particularly in the morning. Light therapy boxes mimic natural sunlight and can be an effective treatment for SAD. Be certain to follow lightbox directions. They are most effective when used in the first 30-45 minutes of waking from sleep and require 20-30 minutes of exposure. This exposure should not be repeated and/or left on as an ambient light.
2. Increase Natural Light Exposure: Spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Sunlight is always better than a lightbox. Do your best to obtain at least 10-15 min of natural, full-spectrum light daily, regardless of outdoor temperature. Open curtains and blinds to let natural light into your home or workspace.
3. Consider Vitamin D Supplements: Some people with SAD have lower levels of vitamin D, often obtained from sunlight. Consult with your healthcare provider about whether vitamin D supplements may benefit you.
4. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity. It can help boost your mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
5. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Consider incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may have mood-stabilizing effects.
6. Socialize and Plan Enjoyable Activities: Stay connected with friends and family. Social interaction can positively impact mood and help combat feelings of isolation. Engage in activities you enjoy, even if you don’t feel like it. Planning activities can provide a sense of purpose and pleasure.
7. Mind-Body Techniques: Enjoyable activities are great, but engaging in self-soothing, stress-reducing activities is just as important. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to manage stress and improve overall well-being.
8. Establish a Sleep Routine: Create a daily routine with regular sleep patterns. Consistent sleep is crucial for mental health, and disruptions in sleep can worsen depressive symptoms. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers excellent sleep hygiene techniques that can help you maximize its benefits.
9. Seek Professional Help: Consult a mental health professional if your symptoms are severe or persistent. Evidence-based research tells us that psychotherapy has been proven to reduce disability, morbidity, and mortality. It also improves work engagement and functioning. Psychotherapy changes the neural architecture of the brain to support these outcomes.
Remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to consult with a health care professional for personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific situation.
William Charmak, PhD, ABPP practices at Foundation Counseling and Wellness.