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Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression medical experts say typically starts in the fall and lasts throughout the winter months. And while many of us may feel down and have less energy during the gloomy winter season, SAD can be serious. If you feel depressed and have symptoms like not sleeping well, it’s important to take steps to keep your mood upbeat–and consult a medical doctor if you’re depressed for days or feeling helpless.

Symptoms of SAD
According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, signs that you are experiencing SAD include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Changes in your appetite, weight or sleep patterns
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide
  • If you have fall or winter SAD, you may also find you are oversleeping, crave high carb foods, gain weight and be more tired than usual.

Ways to Turn SAD to Happy
If you are experiencing ongoing depression, it may be time to have a doctor evaluate your symptoms. In addition, if you have been diagnosed with major depression or bipolar disorder, your symptoms may get worse during winter months. However, there are ways to combat everyday SAD.

  1. Spend more time in the light. Fresh air and any sunshine you can grab are SAD-fighters. Instead of curling up on the sofa to binge watch TV, engage in activities that get you outside. Plus, open your windows and let light and fresh air brighten your rooms, and use bright, warm light bulbs.
  2. Engage your senses. Feeling blue? Try massaging your skin with a lotion that has a scent that you love or book an aromatherapy session. Aromatherapy can be a mood enhancer and improve your cognitive function, plus it is calming and gives a feeling of wellbeing.
  3. Get more exercise. We know, we know. But now is the time to rev up your fitness routine, not put it on hold. If you usually exercise indoors at a gym or yoga studio, mix it up by taking a walk during daylight hours. (Or if you live where it snows, rediscover the fun of making snow angels.)
  4. Eat more carbs. You never thought we’d say it, but eating carbs can be beneficial, especially if you are fighting SAD. Complex carbohydrates boost serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood. We’re not suggesting you eat a box of Oreos but adding carbs to your diet might be just what you need.
  5. Explore light therapy. If your schedule–or the change to Daylight Savings Time–means you are getting little to no sunshine, check out light therapy. Most light therapy involves a box that gives off a bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. (It’s best to check with a medical expert before you begin, though, as some conditions could make your skin sensitive to light.)
  6. Talk with a professional. If you’re having problems functioning or feeling seriously depressed, talking with a therapist can help. Your medical doctor or psychiatrist may also prescribe an antidepressant.