Alternative Therapies for
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Most people experience depression at some point in their lives, be it a normal part of grieving, when a relationship ends, or when your life changes is some way. There are times when we may feel dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, or we simply get the blues.

Mild depression may affect our normal day-to-day life, when things seem more of a struggle and less worthwhile. However, in the case of sever depression, one often feels in total despair, even suicidal. In such cases, a physician should be consulted.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a severe form of depression. Most people tend to slow down a little in the winter and experience some form of "winter blues," but full-blown SAD can be extremely disabling. Many sufferers are often unable to function without continuous treatment. Depending on the person and the geographical location, the depression can last for several months with symptoms such as overeating with carbohydrate craving and weight gain, sleeping more than usual, fatigue, and social withdrawal. It is the long duration of the symptoms that distinguish SAD from the so-called holiday blues.

It is not known why some people (those between 18 and 30) are more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and why it seems to affect women more than men... unless the statistics are based on the fact that women are more ready to admit to depression and ask for help than men.

There are several alternative therapies for treating depression. One which has been used with remarkable success is Light Therapy. Light and color have been valued throughout history as sources of healing. Today, the therapeutic applications of light and color are being investigated in major hospitals and research centers worldwide. Results indicate that full-spectrum, ultraviolet, colored, and laser light can have therapeutic value for a range of conditions from chronic pain and depression to immune disorders.

The oldest form of light therapy is natural sunlight, which is the ultimate source of full-spectrum light. For those living in areas that see very little sunlight this time of year, there are other options; full-spectrum light therapy, bright light therapy, various forms of UV light therapy, syntonic optometry, cold laser therapy, and colored light therapy.

For treating SAD, according to experts, white light therapy is often preferred over the full-spectrum light because the additional UV light found in full-spectrum light is not necessary to achieve the antidepressant effect of the therapy, and can be harmful to the eyes.

It is also thought that depression may be the result of inadequate nourishment. If the brain is not receiving sufficient fuel, it will not function properly. Vitamin B deficiency is often a physical cause of depression. The best approach to combating depression is to eat more wholefoods, give up sugar, tea, coffee, alcohol and to increase your intake of vitamin B complex, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Exercise is also particularly helpful in depression because it stimulates circulation and releases serotonins in the brain, the hormones that encourage contentment and cheerfulness.

What can you do right now that will help? As you go about your holiday shopping, and cooking, and cleaning, and decking the halls, and making sure that everyone on your list (which you've checked about a dozen times already) has a happy holiday, stop to take time out for yourself! Try a little aromatherapy; Jasmine and bergamot oils are uplifting and refreshing, while lavender is calming and relaxing. Put a little on your wrists, or a piece of cloth you can carry with you. And remember to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and rest.


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