5 Steps to Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the seasons change, so can your mood. For some, the shorter days and longer nights trigger the "winter blues," a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This usually occurs at the same time every year, and people who live in places with long, cold nights are at greater risk.

Like all forms of depression, SAD occurs more often in women than men. Symptoms build slowly, and intensify as autumn's splendor bleaches to winter white. Here are five suggestions to help you keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

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Are You SAD?

There are several indicators that you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder. A sense of hopelessness, increased appetite with weight gain, oversleeping, loss of energy, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, sluggish movements, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability all point to SAD.

Bask in the Light

Light therapy is a standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects. Light therapy mimics outdoor light, and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.

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Let the Outside In

Open the blinds or add skylights to make your home and office lighter and brighter. Trim tree branches that block sunlight, and sit closer to windows while you work or relax.

Get Outside

Even on cloudy days, outdoor light helps, especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or sit on a bench and soak up the sun.

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Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which compound seasonal affective disorder. Taking a fitness class with friends can also make you feel better about yourself, which will lift your mood. 

It's normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you believe you suffer from SAD, talk to your doctor. While symptoms will improve gradually with the change of seasons, they can improve even quicker with treatment. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust, and volunteer or participate in group activities.

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About the Author

Judi Sheppard Missett

Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. Today the program boasts more than 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in all 50 states and 32 countries. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and cardio box movements, has positively affected millions of people. Benefits include increased cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility, as well as an overall "feel good" factor.  For more information go to jazzercise.com or call (800) FIT-IS-IT.

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