After a few long summer months, most people look forward to the crisp, cool air that comes with fall. Pumpkin patches, spending time with family, and holiday excitement warm the heart.
Unfortunately, for some people, there is something else lurking in the cooler months that isn’t exciting or heart-warming: seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
For those who thrive in the warmer months and live for sunshine, transitioning into fall and winter might be a little more difficult. Yes, the thrill of peppermint mochas and lacing up your snow boots sounds enticing. However, the gloomier weather and overall ‘blah’ feeling can evoke seasonal depression – a very real disorder that can have a negative toll on the mind and body.
SAD might be lurking in the shadows, but you have the power to curb or even prevent its arrival. Pause the Netflix show you’re watching, understand what seasonal depression is, and engage in activities that will improve your mood.
What’s up with SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder is a depressive disorder that’s related to the changes in season. Typically, symptoms start in the fall and continue throughout winter, but they may also occur in the spring or the summer.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but a couple of theories say that it is influenced by light. One says that decreased exposure to sunlight affects our natural biological clocks which regulate our sleep and mood. Another claims that light-dependent brain chemicals are impacted more in those with the condition.
The term ‘seasonal depression’ is often thrown around as a joke, but it is a real disorder. If you’re experiencing SAD, you might feel fatigued, hopeless, unmotivated, unhappy, irritable, unfocused, and even experience a loss of interest in your otherwise favourite activities. To cope with the negative effects of SAD, it’s essential to get up, get out, and get the help you need.
Have you ever seen a picture of a forest and felt relief from just looking at it? Have you ever gone on a walk or a hike, really taking the time to soak up the wonders of nature? Here’s what we’re getting at: Forest bathing can help you curb the effects of SAD.
Forest bathing is an act of nature therapy or ecotherapy that aims to connect you with your outdoor surroundings. This specific type of ecotherapy encourages you to take walks in the forest to promote mindfulness and help you unwind.
If you have SAD, try taking a walk outside in a forest or wooded area near you. Take in the changing leaves (or snow on the ground), listen to the sounds of nature, and smell the fresh air. It’ll help get you out of your negative mindset and into a relaxing activity.
When you’re dealing with a form of depression, especially seasonal depression, you’ve probably had someone tell you, ‘Go hang out with someone. It’ll help.’ As annoying as it may sound in the moment, spending time with others is actually a great way to combat negative feelings.
Social prescribing encourages you to participate in social activities like attending community events, grabbing dinner with friends or co-workers, or attending group exercise classes. Social prescribing puts you in touch with other people, which can help relieve loneliness and improve quality of life. The goal is to prevent further social isolation.
Talking to a professional
Sometimes, forest bathing and hanging out with friends isn’t enough to curb or prevent depression from seeping in. If you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression, consider talking to a mental health professional. They can offer the guidance and support that you need to feel better, as well as additional self-care activities that will benefit you during the cooler months.
Madison Bambini is a communications coordinator at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree from VCU in mass communications, focusing on digital journalism and broadcast journalism.