Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Get More Sunlight During the Cooler Months

It’s pretty obvious as the summer comes to a close and autumn begins that the days are growing shorter. Unfortunately, shorter daylight hours cause the condition Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD or seasonal depression. Some people begin to feel “down” because their body physically needs more sunlight than others. Here’s how to get more sunlight during the cool months despite the fact that the days are shorter.

Cairngorm autumn
Autumn. (Photo credit: GaggieITMI)
As much as possible, it is important to get outdoors every day - even on the coldest days of the year. Even though the temperatures are cold, getting at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight a day can do wonders for helping to stave off seasonal depression. Of course, the more skin you have getting direct sunlight the better, but even if you can only get sun on your face and hands, that’s better than nothing.

Bundle yourself up and go for a walk in the autumn leaves, or if there is snow where you live, get out in the snow. Take along a camera and get shots of the beauty of the season. By having the camera with you, hopefully it will encourage you to spend more time outdoors.

Try a fall or winter sport. There are so many cool weather sports to choose from – ice hockey, ice skating and snowboarding are winter sports you can try. If those sports aren’t to your liking; you can get involved in sledding, skiing or a family snowball fight.

Adjust your schedule during the fall and winter months so you get out of bed when the sun comes up and are winding down when it sets. This will allow you to experience as much daylight as possible. When you rise, open the blinds or curtains and let in as much sunlight as possible to brighten the room and your day. It is also helpful to avoid over sleeping no matter how much you want to stay snuggled under the covers.

English: A 30 kHz bright light therapy lamp (I...
A 30 kHz bright light therapy lamp (Innosol Rondo) used to treat seasonal affective disorder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Change the light bulbs in your home to bulbs that produce the most natural light. If the days are dark and dreary, light therapy (phototherapy) bulbs in the lamps where you spend the most time can help greatly. These bulbs give off light that is similar to sunlight. Since it mimics sunlight, it causes your body to produce the chemical melatonin. The more melatonin you have in your system, the less likely you are to experience the effects of SAD.

If you regularly experience severe problems with depression during the cooler months, you may want to consider moving to a location where the sun shines more. While we won’t dispute living in the northern states is beautiful and has many benefits, places like Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have more sun during the fall and winter months, so you may want to take a cue from the birds and move south.

For most people, it isn’t practical to move with the seasons. If this is the case for you, perhaps regular visits to tanning salons during the cooler months can help. While daily tanning isn’t recommended, even an hour a week can really make a difference.  Look for a salon that:

1. Is within your budget
2. Is located within your area and has convenient hours
3. Has impeccable standards for cleanliness
4. Owns up-to-date equipment

Even while using these methods to get more sunlight in the cooler months, you may want to start taking vitamin D supplements, particularly during the fall and winter. This is especially important in cooler climates, where it is very difficult to get as much sunlight as your body really needs at this time of year. Eating foods high in vitamin D such as fish, eggs, mushrooms, spinach and potatoes is also a good idea to help you avoid the SAD this winter.

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