Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of seasonal depression triggered by the change in seasons. Typically depression symptoms begin in fall or winter and subside in the spring. Approximately half a million people in the U.S. suffer from SAD, while 10 to 20% may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues.

According to Cook County Health medical staff, there are lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms and lift your mood:

  • Get plenty of sunlight. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin.
  • Get moving. Research shows the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise can be as simple as walking for at least 30 minutes a day, attending a yoga class or doing some jumping jacks in your living room.
  • Build strong relationships. Having a strong support system and an active social life is important for your mental health. A support system can offer support, a shoulder to cry on or shared laughter to give you a little boost.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep impacts many chemicals in your body, including serotonin. Make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep: between 7 and 9 hours each night.
  • Eat well. Eating balanced meals with lean protein and lots of fruits and vegetables will help ensure your body has the vital nutrients it needs to keeping your brain in good working order.
  • Limit alcohol use. In addition to reducing inhibitions, alcohol can increase depression symptoms both when drinking and afterwards.

If you haven’t been feeling like yourself and think you may be depressed, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. This will open the door for your doctor to get you the help that you need.