What is seasonal depression?
The winter months are often filled with joy and anticipation. This time of year brings the opportunity to gather with loved ones, the ability to build a snowman (that won’t melt from the powerful sun), and so much more. But the darker winter months can lead to an often unspoken ailment: seasonal depression, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Thankfully, there are several ways to help combat seasonal depression and to keep it from raining on your holiday parade.
Just as it sounds, seasonal depression is triggered by the change in seasons. However, it tends to hit most people in the late fall as the winter months are approaching. Those with seasonal depression often struggle with feelings of sadness, lethargy, and disinterest and may also suffer the effects of weight gain and oversleeping. And holiday activities can sometimes exacerbate depression, even when you’re doing things that previously brought you joy.
Some Triggers of Seasonal Depression
- Changes in the biological clock
- Chemical imbalance in the brain
- Vitamin D deficiency (from a lack of sunshine), which not only impacts mental health but also bone and teeth health
- Melatonin overproduction
- Negative thoughts
Some people are also at greater risk for developing seasonal depression than others.
Risk factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Presence of another mood disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder
- Family history of SAD or other conditions such as schizophrenia
- Living in a region where there is less sunlight during the winter months
- Living in cloudy regions where the sun is less present
How To Combat Winter Depression
According to the National Library of Medicine, seasonal depression affects up to 3% of the population. However, in areas such as Anchorage where sunlight comes at a premium in the winter, compared to, say, Florida, it is safe to estimate that the winter blues affect us more. It might not sound like a high number, but with an estimated Alaskan population of 730,000 people, 3% of the population is nearly 22,000 people. With numbers like that, it is important to understand what you can do to combat the disorder and bring a smile back to your face.
Try light therapy.
Light box therapy mimics the light that you would get from the sun. Your doctor may recommend that you sit in close proximity (16 to 24 inches) to your light box for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. You should also keep your eyes open but avoid directly looking at the light. Choosing a light box doesn’t need to be challenging either. Make sure that whatever box you buy filters out UV rays and is 10,000 lux.
Take vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D is a mood booster and can help treat hereditary bone disorders, lessen the risk of multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis, and may improve cognitive health. The specific dosage for any supplement is best advised by your primary care provider (PCP). However, a rule of thumb is 400 international units (IU) for children up to 12 months, 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years.
Stick to a schedule.
When you’re feeling down, it can be easy to head to bed early, cozying up underneath the covers. On the same side of that coin, it can be easy to push that snooze button over and over, thinking just a few more minutes will help. But the truth is that sticking to a schedule can help keep your body’s internal clock running efficiently by exposing you to light at consistent and predictable times.
Get your body moving.
Physical activity is good for your body for many reasons. But when it comes to depression, physical activity can help lift your spirits by getting those endorphins going. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day three times per week (the more often, the better). Get up every hour (during waking hours) and walk around or in place for at least a minute at a time too. The more you move your body, the more happiness-causing chemicals your brain will release.
Practice some self-care.
Though self-care is essential year-round, it can be exceptionally beneficial for those experiencing seasonal depression. Find a place to treat yourself this winter in Wasilla—get out for lunch and a shopping spree with some friends (who doesn’t benefit from some healthy retail therapy?), get a massage from one of the local day spas, or treat yourself to a Botox treatment at Valley Dental Clinic. Remember that the winter weather can make you look older than you are (and that can be enough to get anyone down), so talk to the team at our clinic about options to help you feel better in your skin. Whatever you do, find something to do for yourself that will boost your mental outlook.
Surround yourself with those who lift you up.
One thing that can seem especially difficult is asking for help. But if you are feeling down and affected by seasonal depression, doing things with your family or being around people in general can really help. And if you don’t have the support system you need locally or time with family and friends just doesn’t seem to be enough, don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist for help. A neutral third party can often assist you in bringing out your best and learning how to beat those negative thoughts.
Let Valley Dental Clinic, your preferred dentist near Anchorage, Alaska, help you beat seasonal depression and the winter blues.
If you think some self-care such as a Botox treatment, teeth whitening, or other smile makeover services might help do the trick, we’re here to help. Contact us by phone or fill out our online form to request an appointment. We’ll be happy to work with you to get some time on the calendar and discuss how we can help you feel better about your smile. After all, smiles are critical to good mental health and can help combat seasonal depression.