A couple of years ago I mentioned that my doctor suspected I have seasonal affective disorder. I wasn’t surprised as I had had the same thought for some time. Over the past couple of years I’ve really focused on learning effective ways to deal with it.
Last year was the best year I’ve had in a long time and I attribute it to two things. I wanted to share those as well as something new I’m doing this year that I can already tell is making a big difference.
First of all, I thoroughly listened to my body last year and I did what it told me to do. This was in primarily two areas. You will probably laugh when I tell you, but honestly it made a huge difference.
When my body wanted chocolate, I ate it. I always have a stash of Dove Dark Chocolate candies around the house as it is my reasonably priced dark chocolate of choice. If my body wanted chocolate, I ate it. It didn’t matter if I ate ten or more a day. I ate them and it did not affect my weight at all.
When my body and brain told me to get out of the house, I got out. Even if it was inconvenient. Even if it was freezing cold. Even if it was to drive through Starbucks for a mocha and walk around Target for half an hour, I got out. (Notice the chocolate theme?) I got out of the house pretty much every day last winter and I truly believe it made a huge difference.
The other biggie is also what I have come to believe is the number one rule of health. There is no substitute for this. It is absolutely imperative to get enough sleep. There is nothing a person can do to compensate for a lack of sleep. Eating better won’t work. Exercising won’t work. Nothing can make up for the damage that occurs because of lost sleep. Now if you are a mom with a little one, please don’t feel like I’m heaping guilt upon you. I’m not! I fully know how hard that season is of getting up in the night multiple times. I’m talking about skipping sleep when it isn’t required of you.
Last year I ate copious amounts of dark chocolate and I drank more grande mochas than I would ever admit. But I didn’t gain weight over the winter. I did get enough sleep and I believe that was the huge difference.
Compare that to the winter after Caroline was born when she was three to six months old. My weight skyrocketed through the roof. I have no idea how much I weighed, but it was the heaviest I have ever been. It was depressing. But I know without a doubt that it was due to the lack of sleep because nothing else changed that much that winter.
Even now, if I get in a season where I skimp on sleep I can see my weight start to creep up. I can also see a myriad of other problems that develop with lack of sleep. Every time I push myself and try to get by on less sleep, I end up sick.
So last winter I got lots of sleep. I know it made a huge difference in keeping my weight down and helping me avoid most of the SAD symptoms I have had in the past.
This year I am adding one new thing to my arsenal. I purchased a full spectrum floor lamp and put it by my desk. I first purchased a Verilux Natural Spectrum HappyLite from Costco, but it was too bright and there was no way to adjust it. It gave me a headache almost instantly. So after experimenting with it and determining it wasn’t going to work, I took it back. Instead, I now have a Brushed Nickel Full Spectrum FloorLamp that I bought at Menards.
WOW. I can tell a HUGE difference when I use it for just an hour or two a day. I have SO MUCH MORE ENERGY it is just unbelievable. I’ve always known that sunny days make me feel so much better in the winter and this lamp replicates it in a great way. It was only $30 and worth ten times that for how much better I feel.
So I’m really thankful for what I’ve learned. Truly, the sleep thing is just the biggest thing in the world. God designed our bodies to heal and recover during our sleep. To think we can get away with just a little bit doesn’t work. We end up paying the price in all sorts of ways.
For anyone who is struggling with SAD or even the winter blues, I sincerely hope you can find some strategies to help you feel better during the winter months.
Love my S.A.D. light. If we have 2 dark days in a row, I use it as instructed. What a difference! On other days I use it for task lighting as I sew. I place it up and behind me, so I am not looking into it. Great!
I am so pleased that you are finding successful strategies. Sleep and chocolate – what is not to love there! Don’t we wish someone had explained this to us long ago.
Brandy @ Afterthoughts
Thank you for the lighting options! I have been thinking about getting one for a couple years now, but I never knew what other people liked, and I hate wasting money on…well, on anything. I will check out your list and figure out what I think will work best. I am thinking that something that benefits ALL of us on rainy days would really help the family…And I know I don’t get enough sun in the winter.
By the way: totally agree with you on sleep. I am really a different person when I’m not getting sleep.
Sallie @ a quiet simple life
I personally like the ones that are on an adjustable arm because it allows you to determine how much light you get. The one that just sits there completely in the open had two settings – blinding and more blinding. Obviously it works well for some people because they sell a lot of them. But I agree with Martha about not looking right into it. Just being near it is plenty for me.
It’s all about the light!
I’m out a lot more now during the day, now that my kids are older, but when they were little and we would be cooped up in the house, I used to force myself to bundle up and sit on the deck. Even 15 minutes exposed to the sunlight, or even just the cloud-covered sun, made such a difference.
I’ve also found that taking Vitamin D every day all winter (beyond what’s in a multi-vitamin) helps take the edge off too.
My depression is year-round (chemical imbalance) and I can totally agree with you here; cabin fever is NOT good for depression and sleep is essential. Get enough, but don’t use sleep as an “outlet” when you’re sad. There were days where I would sleep 24 hours if I could. I now recognize those as low-low points.
But a good night sleep for me is 9-10 hours. Eight just doesn’t cut it! I need more sleep than the average person.
I’ve considered a light box, but since mine is more chemical I’m not sure it would help.