Light. Movement. Rest.
It’s National Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Day. The Mayo Clinic defined SAD as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.” For most individuals, SAD is activated as we move into the winter months of decreased sunlight, so it may seem incongruent that we recognize this day in this middle of the summer when there’s plenty of natural light, and now is the time for all of us to begin practicing and developing the habits that will support us through the coming winter months.
Many of us, even those who don’t experience SAD, will experience shifts in our mood as our access to natural light decreases. It can be harder to get out of bed. Tardiness increases during the winter months. We have decreased energy. There are three things we can begin to emphasize in our daily practices to help us during those months of longer nights.
Light. Intentionally taking in natural light is an important practice in supporting ourselves during the winter months. One of my favorite practices (even though I am not a morning person) is meditating on the sunrise. Beginning a meditation practice can be daunting, and I recommend beginning in small increments, even if it’s just one minute. Intentionally taking in the rising sun can support the nervous system in integrating the presence of natural light even as the daily access to it is decreasing.
Movement. We know regular exercise is an important practice for all of us, particularly those who struggle with depression. During the winter months, exercise can be particularly challenging. The impulse to hunker down and curl up away from the colder weather can be strong. Our movement doesn’t always have to be robust to support us during these months. Slower, more intentional movement can be helpful. Consider taking up practices like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or Yin Yoga to support you during this time.
Rest. As the seasons change (and the time changes), our circadian rhythms can get out of whack. While we might experience increased lethargy, productive rest can be hard to come by. Establishing good sleep rituals can be helpful in prompting our systems to adjust to the seasonal changes. Excellent sleep meditations and sleep hypnosis practices are available. Set limits on screen time and alcohol as you move closer to bedtime. Sometimes, a hot, non-caffeinated beverage can support the system in moving into productive rest.
Knowing that seasonal changes are coming and beginning to integrate supportive practices now allows us opportunities to establish habitual patterns before more challenging times begin. If you experience symptoms of SAD that are more challenging, please reach out to a licensed mental health professional and/or your medical doctor for additional support.