Short days and long, cold nights affect the mood of every person in the form of mild depression, sadness, and decreased motivation. During the winter, for individuals fighting with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), things can get much worse. Still, there are many ways for those people to prevent or alleviate the symptoms of this disorder.
Preventing the reoccurrence of SAD has become a great challenge. Light therapy, which is currently the most common and most successful treatment option, eliminates the symptoms in 53% of patients and about 60-80% of people see improvement in their condition within a few days of using light boxes. However, light therapy cannot prevent the reoccurrence of symptoms in the next winter. That is because the light therapy has short-term effects and requires continual treatment in order to provide long-lasting results. The optimal choice for the prevention of reoccurrence of symptoms would be the treatment which can provide long-term effects.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for The Prevention of Winter Blues Symptoms Reoccurrence
Recent studies have introduced the SAD – adapted cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy is shown to have similar effects on acute symptoms as light therapy, but gives much better results in the prevention of the symptoms during the next winter. In one study, the participants suffering from SAD were divided in three groups. One group received light therapy, second group – light therapy combined with CBT, and the third group received CBT only. The groups in which CBT was applied had significantly lower reoccurrence of SAD symptoms the next winter than the group with light therapy only.
The Impact of Physical Activity
Besides CBT, persons with winter blues can increase their physical activity, which is shown to help with preventing the reoccurrence of symptoms. A few hours of exercise every day can be very beneficial for stress relief and metabolism. During exercises, the substances which contribute to the mood improvement are created in brain tissue.
Eating healthy food and staying fit is also very good to strengthen your body before the new winter. The dieting plan can impact greatly our mood, and long-term changes in our diet can contribute to mood and health improvement. For example, whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables are very good choice for this purpose.
More Sunlight Improves The Mood
The exposure to sunlight during the summer increases the level of vitamin D, and improves the mood too. The sunlight affects the mood in the similar way as exercises, as it increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Even during the cold days, try to spend more time outside and get some sunlight and fresh air, as it will certainly improve your mood. You can also enhance the illumination in your house by replacing your light bulbs with full-spectrum light bulbs.
Cut Out The Bad Habits
Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can worsen the symptoms of winter blues, and people having those habits are more likely to have the reoccurrence of symptoms. Alcohol causes the depression of your nervous system, which lowers your energy, makes you tired, and affects your mood as well as every other aspect of your life.
In order to prevent the symptoms, you can also try to get the best from the winter instead of being depressed knowing it’s coming. Make your plans, keep yourself motivated and enthusiastic, but also take your time off to relax, try yoga, meditation, etc.
Rohan, K.J., Evans, M., Mahon, J.N., Sitnikov, L., Ho, S.Y., Nillni, Y.I., Postolache, T.T., Vacek, P.M. (2013). Cognitive-behavioral therapy vs. light therapy for preventing winter depression recurrence: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 14:82.
University of Vermont (2009, October 17). For SAD Sufferers, Cognitive Behavior Better Than Light Therapy At Preventing Recurrence, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/10/091016163659.htm