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How to Fight Seasonal Depression During the Colder Months

Colorado and Utah are two of the sunniest states in the Union — but when the weather gets cold and the days get short, seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD or seasonal depression) can still set in.

If you have a case of the wintertime blues, you’re not alone — seasonal affective disorder is quite common among people of all ages. Keep reading to learn more about the causes and symptoms of seasonal depression, along with ways you can treat SAD.

A senior man wearing a coat and hat leans on a balcony during the fall

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is much more serious than feeling down for a day or two — in fact, it’s a medically recognized form of major depression, most commonly caused by a weather-induced deficiency in vital feel-good hormones like serotonin.

People with seasonal depression will usually experience their symptoms almost exclusively through the fall and winter months, with most if not all the symptoms going into remission as the seasons change. However, others may experience a much rarer type of seasonal depression during the warmer months.

Common symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Consistently low mood, including sadness and irritability
  • Feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • Lack of energy or consistent lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating, especially in complex tasks
  • Change in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Self-destructive ideation

If you experience these symptoms — especially if they recur at around the same time each year — you may qualify for diagnosis and medicinal treatment from a psychiatric professional. While you can do a lot to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal depression on your own, there is no at-home replacement for the expert advice of a doctor or clinician.

A senior couple sit inside the house and enjoy a hot drink with coffee mugs

Five At-Home Remedies to Try

  • Bring the sun indoors. Light therapy can be a great way to fool your brain into making more of the chemicals that make you feel good — the same chemicals that you’re missing during a bout of seasonal depression. You’ll need a specialized therapeutic lamp that puts out the right kind of light, so do a lot of research before making a purchase. You may also consider consulting a doctor or other treatment professional just to be sure. 
  • Healthy body, healthy mind. When the weather outside is frightful, it n be all too tempting to curl up under the covers with your favorite guilty pleasure snack. But although hat high-calorie treat might feel good in the short term, it can wreak havoc on your body’s ability to self-regulate. This can compound feelings of exhaustion and exacerbate the symptoms of SAD. Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise will make you happier and prevent weight gain — a common symptom of seasonal depression.
  • Mindfulness and meditation. There’s a hidden upside to spending a lot of time indoors. Try taking a few minutes out of your day to sit down and reflect on things. While meditation isn’t a cure for the chemical imbalances that lead to seasonal depression, it can help you quiet intrusive thoughts, recontextualize your feelings and remember that winter won’t last forever.
  • Talk it out. Another perk of spending more time indoors is that you’ll have a lot of time to talk with the important people in your life. Tell your friends and family how you’re feeling. Even if they can’t make spring come any sooner, they can be a major beacon of light in supporting you through a difficult time of the year.
  • Get creative. Art and music therapy — like the kind you’ll find at The Ridge communities — can be a great avenue toward restoring a sense of self-efficacy and overall life satisfaction to people with seasonal affective disorder. An organized class is preferred, but there’s a lot to gain from journaling, drawing or playing an instrument. You’ll have an outlet for your emotions, and you may even learn something about yourself.

A senior woman taking a painting class

We’re Here to Help

If you’re looking for a senior living community that has it all — including art therapy, exercise classes, and a full calendar of social events with like-minded peers — look no further than The Ridge. Our family of communities (Foothill and Cottonwood near Salt Lake City, plus our all-new Denver community, The Ridge Pinehurst) provide an unmatched level of comfort and camaraderie to carry you through even the dreariest weather.

If you’d like to know more about how community living can improve your life year-round, don’t hesitate to contact us.