Winter is on its way, and if you are one of the up to ten percent of Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you may be dreading the change in seasons. The symptoms of SAD include fatigue, irritability, a tendency to overeat, weight gain, and depression. For most people, SAD lasts from the onset of fall through spring.

    The treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is nearly identical to treatment for other types of depression. These treatments include pharmaceutical medications and talk therapy. SAD patients also receive photo, or light, therapy. SAD can only be diagnosed by a health care professional, but if you suspect you may experience some symptoms related to the seasonal change in light, there are things you can do to support yourself:

    1. Exercise.

    Studies have established there is a close relationship between the neurotransmitter, serotonin, and depression. Serotonin makes it possible for us to sustain a good mood. Exercise is useful because it releases serotonin in the human brain.

    To really boost your happiness, find an exercise that gives you pleasure. Group exercises give a sense of community, and they are sometimes useful in helping people feel less isolated.

    2. Soak up the sun.

    The human species evolved out of doors, in the sunshine, even during the winter months. Today most people spend the bulk of their time indoors in artificial lighting. To defend yourself against SAD, plan to spend time in the sun.

    Take a break from work throughout the day, and go outside into the sun. Even if the day is overcast, you will receive some benefits. You can also utilize full-spectrum light in fixtures indoors.

    3. Stay calm.

    Many studies show that meditation improves the connections in the brain to help us process emotion. It seems clear that meditation may in fact rival antidepressant medication in relieving depression symptoms.

    4. Increase your intake of Typrophan.

    Tryptophan is an amino acid, a component of protein. It is found in animal as well as plant sources; most people know that turkey is a good source of tryptophan, as are egg whites, cod, spirulina and soybeans. Tryptophan increases the production of serotonin. It is also possible to supplement directly with tryptophan.

    Depression is a complex condition, and for some people, medication is necessary. But these suggestions can provide other tools you can use to support optimal mood through the dark months of fall, winter and early spring.