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Seasonal Affective Disorder

As we head into cooler weather and our days get shorter, let's talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Most folks associate SAD with the low point during winter when the sun sets early and your motivation wanes. But did you know that this pattern of low energy and sluggishness, difficulty sleeping, increased agitation or anxiety, and overall feeling of depression is not isolated to winter?

Though the fewer hours of sunlight and cold weather tend to lend themselves to this disorder, any transition from one season to the next can trigger a rut. Allergies can flare up in spring and autumn, minimizing your ability to enjoy the outdoors, and the heat of summer can make commuting to and from work feel like a feat. With these changes, your mood may plummet. Here are a few quick additions to your lifestyle that can help lift your mood out of a funk, whatever the season:

  1. Get some indoor sun: Open the blinds and sit by a window in your apartment, office, or favorite coffee shop for 15 minutes where you’ll be bathed in sun rays. Not only will you get a daily dose of vitamin D, but you'll warm up. If the weather is fair, crack that window and enjoy a breeze.

  2. Leave your house: I can’t emphasize enough the positivity that comes from a long walk or reading a book on a bench. Even on a cloudy day, get outside.

  3. Exercise: Physical activity decreases stress and anxiety and will lift your mood (and endorphins are great). Try to experience about 30 minutes a day of some kind of heartbeat-raising activity you enjoy.

  4. Make your bed: In the rush of the morning it’s easy to skip this task, but the state of your room is a reflection of the state of your mind. You can’t always get to everything, but making your bed is a start. It can motivate you to tidy up another section of your room as well. Once your bed is made, leave it as a sacred space that’s kept neat.

These tips may appear simple  -- and that’s because they are. Try one or two and see how your day improves.


Daphne Bastien, LMHC, received her master's degree in clinical mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma studies from Lesley University. She spent the past several years in an array of mental health settings including community mental health, middle schools and high schools, universities, and nonprofit. She has worked with a range of clients (from age five to age eighty) with a variety of needs, including depression, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and many other disorders.

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