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  • Writer's pictureJoel Hutton

5 Self Care Ideas to Alleviate Seasonal Depression

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year ( Commonly, individuals with SAD may feel a lack of motivation, can be more irritable, may experience a weight gain, have a tendency to avoid social and public situations, and might feel as if they have no energy to complete basic tasks.

If you feel you have symptoms of SAD, you are not alone. The American Family Physician ( states that 4-6% of people have SAD and possibly another 10-20% have a mild degree of SAD.

If you are feeling the SAD blues, here are 5 self care ideas to survive the winter.

1. Light Therapy

Light boxes simulate natural light. Studies state that by sitting in front of one for 30 minutes it stimulates your circadian rhythm and suppresses your body’s melatonin release. Often people will sit in front of these boxes in the morning while drinking a cup of coffee or tea to energize them. It is important that your light box is full spectrum to best mimic natural light.

When used appropriately, light therapy has the potential for very few side effects. Mayo Clinic states that side effects may include eye strain, headache, fatigue, irritability and inability to sleep - this happens if light therapy is used late in the day. We recommend this light box.

2. Exercise

If you had thought about it long enough, you would have to figure that exercise would make the list. Without question the physical and mental benefits of exercise are undeniable. SAD may present as lack of motivation to complete basic tasks not alone exercise. I have found one of the best methods for overcoming these obstacles is to start small. For instance, get a workout DVD (whether it’s new or has been tucked away in the junk drawer) or find a YouTube video and watch it while sitting down. Next step would be the watch it sitting down with your exercise shoes on or the attire that you would want to wear. Thirdly, watch it standing up. Don’t worry about moving. Just stand. If at any point during these steps you think, why not I’ll just do it a little, than do it! This stair step approach has been helpful to some. Another approach could be to push yourself to workout for 30 seconds or 1 minute. Just get started.

Whatever method you choose, stop feeling guilty about what you aren’t doing and celebrate the small successes. Guilt is not a friend of progress. It will keep you paralyzed. Celebrate that you even took the time to find your old workout DVD or found a good exercise routine on YouTube. Celebrate that you watched it. Celebrate that you did it for 1 minute. It’s ok to celebrate where you are today.

3. Vitamin D

In multiple studies, vitamin D was found to ease SAD significantly. We would advise that you speak with your primary care physician before taking vitamin D supplements. It may be significantly impact your depression if you to up your vitamin supplements in the winter months. Here are the Vitamin D supplements that my family uses.

4. Take advantage of the sunlight

Get outside during the day. Bundle up and go for a walk. At least keep your blinds open. To maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, try to get 10-30 minutes of sunlight per day. Individuals with darker skin may need a little more. Skin sensitivity should also be a factor in determining exposure time.

5. Get a hug

Physical touch releases the body’s anti pain and antidepressant chemical – serotonin. It also releases oxytocin, which enhances our sense of trust and attachment and dopamine, which impacts our feelings of pleasure and motivation; all while lowering stress hormones. We are designed for physical contact. So find a loved one and ask them for a hug. The benefits are mutual, so you are helping them too.

If your depression is worsening, please seek out a mental health provider. You can schedule with me at I offer private individual face to face sessions as well as individual online sessions.

Email me at for any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.

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