What to Do if You’re “SAD”

Several people wrote and asked me if there are ways to battle “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) either mentally or cognitively, as opposed to biochemically. My answer is yes, it is definitely worth a try. If you find that you get depressed when the days are shorter, and darker, then ask yourself a couple of questions. One, “Are there advantages to shorter and darker days that I’m not seeing?” Second, “What, if anything, can I do to structure my day differently so that I neutralize the impact of shorter days — even turn them into something positive?” One person I know changed her attitude. She decided to start looking at evenings in the winter as cozy excuses to curl up with a good book. Another person worked on reminding himself that “5 o’clock is 5 o’clock, whether it’s light or dark out — I really don’t have to do anything differently.” It’s worth noting that some people do just fine with shorter or darker days, and a few even prefer them. It isn’t necessary to change your preference. Just take a psychological page or two out of the mental “book” of someone who holds this preference and run with it for yourself. Attitude adjustments of this kind take thought, time and effort. But they are often a solution. Also, if it’s true that your brain needs more sunlight than wintry or wet weather will allow, then work extra hard on bright sunny days to get out into that light. “Store up” your exposure to light. If you have the option to build a four-season sunroom on your house, this will help tremendously, too. You can read, watch television, enjoy your pets or children and even eat dinner in a sunroom. Even if it’s getting dark out, you’ll have a little more light than you would behind walls, blinds and curtains. Sometimes you’ll even have moonlight. Learn to enjoy the sound of rain on your roof, especially if you have a metal roof or a sun porch type of arrangement. Pleasure comes in many different forms, and some of them are dark or wet. There are solutions, both mental and behavioral, to “SAD.” You don’t have to be a victim of “seasonal affective disorder” or anything else, for that matter.