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SAD: How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

written by: JMendes • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/1/2011

Learn how to treat the symptoms of SAD; there are several natural and inexpensive treatments for SAD that can easily become a part of your daily routine.

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    Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects millions of people every winter. Many experts believe that SAD develops from the lack of natural sunlight that occurs during the winter months.

    Depending on the person, symptoms can range from mild to severe depression, lethargy, mood swings and an overall lack of energy. These symptoms can be especially problematic for home office workers who rely on self-motivation to get through their day.

    There are many ways to combat SAD that can be incorporated into a normal workday routine. The effectiveness of these treatments depends on the individual and often a combination of tactics is required to keep SAD at bay.

    1. Light Therapy is one of the most effective treatments of SAD because it tricks the body into believing that it's being exposed to sunlight. Purchase a few high-wattage natural sunlight bulbs or a light box and sit in front of the light for an hour a day. It may take a few days before there is any noticeable improvement in mood. Usually light treatments work best in the morning but some people respond better to night treatments, experiment to see which works best for you.

    2. Negative Ionized Air Treatment is another natural way to treat SAD. Negative ionized air particles are produced naturally in the wilderness and have been shown to increase the body's production of serotonin, a natural mood enhancer. Purchase an ionized air purifier and place it in your home office or work area.

    3. Exercise is also a highly effective treatment in the war on SAD. Exercise increases the body's production of endorphins and increases the amount of oxygen in the brain, two important elements in mood stabilization. Just 15-30 minutes of exercise in the morning can keep SAD symptoms in check for the entire day.

    4. Behavior Therapy is often used in the treatment of SAD, either by itself or in combination with other treatments. Researchers have found that a few changes in behavior can greatly improve a person's defense against SAD. Talk therapy is the most common, SAD sufferers meet regularly in a group environment and discuss their feelings and problems. It works two ways, talking helps relieve the built-up stress that comes from SAD and the group setting becomes a motivational tool that provides sufferers something to look forward to, a reason to get out of the house. Start a SAD group with your friends or contact your local health agency to find the SAD groups in your area.

    5. Medication is often the only remedy for people who suffer from prolonged SAD symptoms. Doctors will often prescribe anti-anxiety medication along with an exercise program or behavior therapy to relieve severe SAD symptoms. See your doctor if you are unable to alleviate the symptoms on your own or if the symptoms become so severe that they affect your ability to function.