At first I thought, “Hey, aren’t the Danes supposed to be the happiest people in the world (world happiness report)?” This thought hit me the other day when I was talking to my daughter living in Denmark. She had told me about how everyone seemed to have SAD.
Further conversation revealed that she meant Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), a recurring depression people get (usually in the winter, hence the name). Researchers guess that it has to do with cloudy weather and the reduced amount of sunlight in the winter (parts of Denmark does get only about 4-5 hours/day in January).
Even though doctors don’t really know what causes SAD, they have plenty of treatment options (according to the mayo clinic). Besides anti-depressants, they suggest light therapy, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, remedies/supplements, and alternative medicine.
I was interested to learn that in Denmark, light therapy (sitting in front of bright (10,000 lux) white lights for ½ hr every morning) is very popular. Research shows it is about as effective as antidepressants and is mediated through the eyes, not skin (like tanning booths). I can just imagine walking down the street in the dark morning, windows shining like lighthouses, warning me off the shoals of depression on either side.
Mayo also suggests an exercise program (research shows it is even more effective for depression than previously thought). Stress management via psychotherapy, as well as meditation, is also recommended.
Here at Alive and Well Health and Wellness, we are big believers in lifestyle changes for a few reasons:
Maybe, in the case of SAD, if you go walking outside everyday after sunrise, you can combine light therapy, exercise and stress management as a free lifestyle change where you lose weight as a positive side effect. Now that would be a win!
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