It’s officially autumn. The daylight is fading and the nights are colder. For many, the change of seasons heralds not only the holidays, but the onset of seasonal affective disorder or SAD. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines it as a type of depression that lasts for a season, typically the winter months, and goes away during the rest of the year.
According to the APA, symptoms of SAD are the same as those of depression. They can vary in severity and often interfere with personal relationships. Symptoms include fatigue, pervasively sad mood, loss of interest, sleep difficulty, or excessive sleeping, craving and eating more starches and sweets, weight gain, feelings of hopelessness or despair, and, in some more serious cases, thoughts of suicide.
If you’ve felt this way for more than two winters, you might have a case of SAD, like me. I always notice it setting in around October, when the days are noticeable shorter. Being stuck inside seems to exacerbate the symptoms and the hustle and bustle of all the holiday activities can really suck the life out of your even more. So, I follow the APA advice–plus, I try to practice one more very important tool for lifting my spirits: GRATITUDE. More on that later. Here are some tips from the American Psychiatric Association.
Tips to manage seasonal affective disorder:
- Experience as much daylight as possible
- Eat healthy (and get your vitamin D)
- Spend time with your friends and family
- Stay active
- Seek professional help
These tips are awesome if you can put them into practice in this post-COVID-19 world, but I have found another way to help lift my mood in the fall and winter. Journaling. Specifically, keeping a gratitude journal. Yeah, I’m a writer so it should be easy to journal, but with four kids and such a busy life, I have to be very purposeful about this. That’s why I have a gratitude journal app on my phone to make it easy and convenient to reflect on all things I’m grateful for everyday. Here are some benefits as outlined in the Huffington Post article “The Benefits of a Gratitude Journal and How to Maintain One.”
Benefits to Keeping a Gratitude Journal:
- Lower stress levels
- Feel calm at night
- Gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life
- By noting what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can cut from you life
- Helps you focus on what really matters
- Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware
- Your gratitude journal is a safe zone for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without judgment
- On days when you feel blue, read back through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember that you have great people and things in your life
Are you convinced yet? I have found that gratitude is the most transformative feeling there is. In the midst of a negative situation, if you can find something to be grateful for, you can turn a curse into a blessing in disguise. It’s no wonder that taking a few minutes each night before bed, or maybe with your morning cup of coffee, can reframe your whole mindset. This is especially important when you are prone to depression and negativity.
Here are some great gratitude journal apps from the folks at Calm Sage to get you started on feeling better this fall and winter, even if you don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Being grateful for all the blessings in your life is just good for your soul.
Good luck and thank you for reading my blog. I’m grateful!