How can you beat seasonal affective disorder this January?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically affects people during winter and can cause mental health

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically affects people during winter and can cause mental health problems Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA WIRE - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

January is here, the skies are grey and winter has well and truly set in, meaning cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are predicted to rise – but how can you combat it?

People using a "light lounge" for light therapy, a technique used to combat seasonal affective disor

People using a "light lounge" for light therapy, a technique used to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) Picture: FIONA HANSON/PA ARCHIVE - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The condition is mostly experienced during winter months, with symptoms including fatigue, difficulty sleeping, weight gain and hopelessness, and in extreme cases depression.

Local Suffolk User Forum, who aim to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health of people across the county, have been speaking about the condition in the hopes of raising awareness.

Charity manager Jayne Stevens said: "For some people SAD can be very serious, which can make it hard for them to function as usual and find it difficult to carry out tasks such as study, work and sometimes everyday tasks.

"People should also remember spring will be here soon, and with it comes more sunshine, spelling an end to the dreaded symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Everything really will be alright."


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So what do they recommend?

Socialising: Meeting friends can help avoid a winter slump by engaging in conversation and laughter, rather than spending time alone trapped with thoughts.

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Getting outside: Not getting enough sunshine can reduce the amount of the hormone serotonin in the brain - a key ingredient for lifting mood and creating a happier state of mind.

Using light therapy: With reduced amount of sun time during the winter, sitting in front of a light box supposedly lets "healing rays re-establish natural rhythms".

Journaling: Releasing negative thoughts onto a piece of paper is more therapeutic than bottling them up - they often become easier to manage after being exposed onto paper.

Meditating: Studies have shown meditation may be as effective as some medication in relieving depression and anxiety.

Eating healthy: Balanced meals packed with nutrients, spread evenly throughout the day can help keep energy levels up, which in turn helps improve mood.

Exercising: Getting exercise leads to more efficient processing of negative emotions in the prefrontal cortex, creating a greater sense of positivity.

Getting to sleep: Although insomnia is one of the symptoms of SAD, there are ways to relax and get a better night's sleep. Establishing evening routines which include turning off devices, a hot shower and a mug of herbal tea alongside a good book could improve sleep.

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