Also called seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects people during the same time each year. For most people, SAD symptoms begin in the fall and ease when spring arrives. People with SAD are moody and have low energy levels. Many experts believe that the lack of sunlight associated with the shorter days of fall and winter is at the root of seasonal affective disorder. If you suffer from SAD but do not want to take antidepressants because of their side effects or because you are a recovering addict, there are several natural ways that effectively combat SAD.
- Light Therapy
One of the most common treatments for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. The majority of people with SAD find this treatment to be effective because it restores the effects of natural sunlight. People use light boxes for approximately 30 minutes each day to get the light they miss from the sun. Available in various intensities, the light boxes may be portable or stationary, and some have built-in timers to help people make sure they get enough light each day.
Some people find that using the light box as soon as they wake in the morning is the most effective way to approach the light therapy; it gives them the mood boost they need for the entire day. Other people choose dawn simulators to help them wake up in the morning and keep their sleep-wake cycles in rhythm despite the lack of sunlight that characterizes fall and winter.
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to stave off seasonal affective disorder. This natural therapy utilizes essential oils that help people feel relaxed and restore balance to the mind, body, and spirit. Aromatherapist Virginia Evangelou, a certified practitioner and teacher, recommends using frankincense, marjoram, geranium, bergamot, lavender, chamomile, and citrus-derived oils to restore hormonal balance and increase levels of serotonin. Some people who use aromatherapy to combat the symptoms of SAD apply the oils to their body and others put them in diffusers that spread the scent throughout their homes.
- St. John’s Wort and Supplements
Natural supplements and vitamins also effectively treat seasonal affective disorder symptoms in the majority of people. St. John’s wort has a long history of use in treating mood disorders, and a dosage of 300 mg three times a day is a typical amount for treating SAD. Some people begin taking St. John’s wort at the end of summer to treat SAD because it can take eight weeks for people to get the full benefit of the herbal remedy. Of course, it’s best to consult with a doctor before taking any supplements because they may interact with other medications.
Other supplements and vitamins that have been helpful in treating SAD include vitamin B6 and folic acid, fish oil, and a daily antioxidant multivitamin/mineral supplement to help ensure you are getting your daily allotment of nutrients each day.
- Salt Lamps
The benefits of Himalayan salt lamps are plentiful, and many people find that using one to combat seasonal affective disorder is effective. These lamps are large pieces of Himalayan salt with a bulb inside that glow when lit. The lamps produce soft orange hues, which are known as soothing colors that calm the mood and increase focus. They also release small amounts of negative ions that boost the mood by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain and result in being more alert, decreasing drowsiness, and producing more mental energy. 33% of people have increased sensitivity to negative ions and get even more mood-boosting benefits from using Himalayan salt lamps.
- Spend Time with Four-Legged Friends
When SAD symptoms take over, you may not feel like spending time with friends or family. And while socializing can help you ease some of SAD’s effects, it just isn’t always in the cards. But chances are you’ll feel less anxious about spending time with a judgment-free, cuddly four-legged pal. Animals are actually great medicine for us humans. Spending time with them helps our hearts (literally, it lowers our blood pressure!) and our minds (they’re great mood boosters). If you don’t have a pet of your own, not to worry. Try offering your services as a pet sitter or volunteering for a local animal shelter. Making time for a furry pal can be a great way to get on the path to feeling better.
Combatting the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in natural ways is better than taking antidepressants for people who have struggled with addiction or who do not like to put chemicals into their bodies. Light therapy, aromatherapy, St. John’s wort and supplements, and Himalayan salt lamps are some of the most effective natural treatments for SAD.