If you are feeling down, there may be an unexpected reason for that: Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD). The mood disorder can occur during any seasonal change. It’s most common in the winter months, but summer seasonal affective disorder is a thing too. It’s more than just the winter blues—SAD can be debilitating and interfere with daily life. About 5% of people in the U.S. experience SAD, and it is more common in women than men, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
In the meantime, whether or not you think SAD is to blame for your depression, moodiness, exhaustion, or irritability, these expert tips may help.
Spend some time with animals
If the trending videos on the Internet of adorable pets aren’t proof enough, pets have healing potential. In fact, experts agree that the unconditional love and support pets provide can help alleviate depression, stress, and loneliness.
“If you are a pet owner, take time each day to touch, play, or chat with your animal,” suggests Mayra Mendez, PhD, psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child & Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California. If you don’t have a pet, volunteer at your local animal shelter or even try cuddling with a stuffed animal or furry blanket for a few moments, she says.
Maintain a regular fitness routine
Exercise is the most effective, natural means for combating the blues and restoring health to the body. “The body’s designed to be rewarded with feel-good chemicals called endorphins in response to movement,” says Robin H-C, life coach, behaviorist and bestselling author of Thinking Your Way to Happy.
“These chemicals create a sense of well-being, have an analgesic effect on the body, aid in relaxation, and enhance one’s ability to deal with life’s challenges and stressors.” If you don’t have a regular exercise routine, this is a great reason to start one.
“Winter is a good time to join an exercise group, gym activities or another type of program that’ll help you create a regular routine and have support in maintaining it,” says Jennifer Horton, certified coach and life success consultant, Cottondale, Florida.
While it might seem counteractive to go outside in the winter, breathing in fresh air and getting natural light will have a positive impact on your mood, too, so bundle up and head out for a soul stroll when you can.
Stay away from alcohol and caffeine