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Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, delves into SAD and offers ways to boost your mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD effects more than 10 million Americans every year.  The Mayo Clinic explains SAD as a type of depression that occurs with the changes of the seasons, usually starting in late fall or early winter – in some reverse cases it can start in early spring or summer.

People living in the northern parts of the globe are more likely to develop this condition, usually after the age of 20.  Some of the possible contributors to the appearance of SAD are the biological changes that occur in us in the winter months due to less exposure to the sun.  These changes that occur reflect lower production of melatonin and serotonin which happen due to changes in our circadian rhythms. 

The time the sun rises and sets in the winter is different than the summer – some people find themselves going to work in the dark and going home in the dark.  The hours spent indoors are few and far between due to the cold and bad weather.  All of this works in a domino effect that our biology reacts to and is effected by in relation to the climate we live in.  Symptoms of SAD are similar to depression.

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Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Loss or change in appetite
  • Problems sleeping (having trouble sleeping or oversleeping)
  • Lower frustration tolerance
  • Low motivation
  • Problems concentrating
  • Weight gain

There are many ways to circumvent SAD or help reduce the symptoms if you feel susceptible. For best results, try implementing multiple elements:

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  • If affordable, visit family and friends in warmer climates in the winter
  • Plan a beach/ cruise vacation in winter
  • Melatonin supplementation (under a doctor’s guidance) to help fall asleep
  • Seek out a therapist
  • Sunlamp that gives natural sunlight (at least 10,000 lumens) for 20-30 minutes daily
  • Have wireless music playing in the home so when you walk into your environment you are hearing something that is uplifting 
  • Decorate your environment for the winter with uplifting lights 
  • Create a meet-up group like a book club or movie club
  • Yoga or tai chi 
  • Sauna or hot tub
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take up a new hobby 
  • Make a “feel good” file – friends and family write you a “feel good” letter, add pictures that make you smile, or write a motivating letter to yourself to place in the file
  • Talk to your doctor about possible supplementation to your diet like Vitamin D3
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Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW, of Farmington Hills, owns Journey Within LLC Behavioral Health Services in Southfield, MI. (www.jwithin.com). She earned her master’s in social work at the University of Michigan. In her practice, she uses various methods including EMDR, CBT, DBT, TRT, art and journaling. She made aliyah to Israel at age 18 and lived there until age 42. She studied at Haifa University and is is fluent in Hebrew. As a world traveler, she has a global view and a background in world religions and diversity.  

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