13 Tips for Fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder

Well, there is no denying it any longer: Fall is upon us. It officially began on September 22th (an astronomical perspective). The days are already beginning to be noticeably shorter. The first trees are starting to change color and although the days are often still comfortably warm and sunny, the nights are already cool. As the pop group A-ha used to sing: “summer moved on”.

According to surveys during fall and winter every fourth German complains about being depressed, lacking motivation and craving for something sweet. Researchers primarily attribute this to the fact that during periods of poor lighting the pineal gland produces more melatonin, a hormone with soporific attributes promoting sleepiness. Another important contributing factor is doubtless that we, as superbly evolved creatures have over time gotten out of sync with nature’s rhythm. Central heating, electricity, winter vacations in the south, air-conditioned shopping centers convey the illusion of independence from the seasons, of being in control. No wonder that it sometimes bugs us when the weather is occasionally not to our taste.
If you are also one of those people looking forward to the cold season with distaste, who believe that shorter days, a foggy ambience and dropping temperatures affect your mood, then you may want to try and consciously anticipate the beautiful sides of the coming months instead of mourning the summer’s passing. Isn’t it a shame that you only truly enjoy six of each year’s twelve months! That cuts your (high quality) lifetime almost by half . . . the weather’s impact on you personally depends primarily on your attitude about it. And it is possible to change that – even though it may take a little discipline.

A great way to beat the seasonal blahs is being consciously aware of fall and winter’s beautiful aspects and to celebrate them regularly. Although in the city that is admittedly somewhat more difficult than in suburbia or in the country but with a little good will it is certainly also possible. It may help you to very deliberately remember your childhood. Children see fall and winter through totally different eyes than do adults – rather than thinking about snow tires, scraping ice and rising heating oil prices, their mind is busy with flying kites, collecting chestnuts and tobogganing. Why should you deny yourself these joys of the fall and winter months just because you have grown up?

Here are a few ideas for “fall-“ and “winter celebrations”. Many are outside activities – and that with good reason: Even an overcast winter day provides a light intensity of 30.000 to 50.000 lux. That is more than sufficient to satisfy your light requirement even in the winter. Your pineal gland does not kick in with its increased activity until the light intensity falls below 2500 lux. Thus only a mere half-hour outside will significantly improve your mood!

  • Go ahead and fly a kite like you used to! You have a fun choice of incredible, fanciful models and sleek stunt kites sure to potentially bring any activity to the level of a sporting challenge. If you are good with your hands you may have a great time crafting your own kite. Find out if there is a kite club or a kite-flying event in your neighborhood – you’ll be amazed to discover how widely spread and eclectic this hobby has become! And who knows, this may even be a way to meet a few new nice folks!
  • Do you enjoy tinkering? Then depending on where you live, fall is an absolute treasure trove for you – with colorful leaves, chestnuts, beechnuts, acorns, rose hips – and that is only scratching the surface! Don’t feel like tinkering alone? Check the program of your community college or any other educational facility nearby. At this time of the year creative programs bound to inspire and bring you together with likeminded people are often on the agenda.
  • Use every opportunity for a walk outdoors – your lunch break, on your way to work, over the weekend. The more trees and bushes surround you, the better! Intensely enjoy the spectacle of nature as it changes color. Maybe this motivates you to buy that watercolor- or oil paint set you have already been thinking for so long? This is the perfect time to awaken the painter in you!
  • Embark on an extensive walk in the woods (even if it means a bit of a drive). Now is the best time for it. Enjoy the fall forest’s intense, aromatic flavors with all your senses. Collect a few chestnuts to roast or cook after you get home. Maybe you also trust yourself to identify a few mushrooms as being edible? In case you are unsure – most cities or communities have experts who’ll be happy to take a look at your treasure at no charge – they’ll tell you whether your pick is good for you or if you will be better off having something a bit more wholesome for dinner. You’ll generally be able to find their address in your pharmacy or town hall.
  • In the USA Thanksgiving towards the end of November is a major holiday celebrated by family and friends. Maybe you would like to adopt this custom? Pick a date, invite those close to you and create a celebration featuring everything fall has to offer: fruits, flowers, pumpkins, chestnuts, new wine, onion tart . . . you’ll find lots of wonderful (and simple) fall recipes at http://seasonalrecipes.com/, for instance.
  • Decorate your home according to the season in a way that is going to make you feel good and comfortable! Especially candles in all shapes and sizes – they are a great way to turn the dark evenings into something special – with the heavenly scent of beeswax candles a special nuance. Maybe you feel like using a rainy day for a little renovation- or reorganization activity? Is there a corner you have been already wanting to re-arrange? At this time of the year scent- and aromatic lights provide a wonderful ambience.
  • If you have a bathtub treat yourself a little more frequently to a “blue hour” with a special bath additive, nice music and a good book! Rose- and lavender oils are particularly well suited as mood enhancers.
  • Do you still remember the days when you were a child and had to stay in bed because you were sick but really truly did not feel all that sick anymore? Did you relish them? In that case it may be a good time to treat yourself to another one of those days – without having to get sick first! Welcome a rainy, foggy day as a present to yourself. Treat yourself to a book, a few magazines, maybe the DVD you have been wanting for some time. Put fresh linen on your bed, pile up all those snuggle blankets and –pillows you love to have around, turn off the answering device, disconnect the telephone, silence your mobile phone and doorbell. Prepare a few choice morsels and something to drink suitable for consumption in bed – and now the next few hours are yours alone!
  • Do you like tea? In that case this is the perfect time to treat yourself to a few new varieties! The East Frisians and the British (both used to bad weather) don’t celebrate teatime ritual especially copiously for nothing. In the company of an aromatic cup of tea, rock candy and cream you are guaranteed to even going to enjoy watching the rain come down!
  • Maybe you would be interested to re-discover your passion for cooking? After the hot summer days when standing in front of the stove was no pure, unadulterated joy, now comes the time for steaming soups, root-veggie hotpot or – if you feel like it – even self-baked bread. “Treat your body well, so your soul enjoys living in it” – during these days you should really take this saying by St. Teresa to heart!
  • Do you enjoy taking a sauna? Or visiting a steam bath? In that case, treat yourself to a wellness evening or –afternoon. All these are activities one prefers to avoid at 30 degrees in the shade – be grateful that now the time for them has returned.
  • Don’t let the first snow aggravate you or be irritated at having to replace the snow tires! Welcome it; it illuminates the day outside by reflecting the sunlight! Risk a snowball fight with friends, go tobogganing or build a snowman. It‘s nowhere carved in stone that it is only for children! And as opposed to times long past, afterwards you are now free to treat yourself to a hot toddy or a sip or two of mulled wine (what else could a person possibly want!).
  • Is there a nice St. Nick’s - or Christmas market near by? In that case make your way here – especially in the evening when it is already dusky and getting dark, you can admire the lights and particularly acutely appreciate the scents! A little kitsch and nostalgia is good for the soul!

Well now – are you a little bit inspired to see the cold season through other eyes? That would make me very happy! Just remember: „Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them!“ (Epitekt)