Self-care is important, especially when it comes to your mental health. 

Have you been feeling down or “blah” lately? If so, you may have something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD or the “winter blues”). 

“SAD can be as debilitating as traditional yearlong anxiety and/or depression,” clinical psychologist Amanda Rafkin told Genomind.com

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, four to six percent of people may have SAD, while another 10 to 20 percent may just have a mild case of it. 

The good news? There are a few natural ways to manage the symptoms of SAD, sans medication. 

Get moving. 

When you’re feeling a bit under the weather, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But once you get moving, exercise (despite how dreary it may seem) can make a pretty big difference in your mood. 

According to the researchers at Harvard Medical School, exercising sets off the body’s feel-good chemicals (aka endorphins), resulting in what joggers refer to as the “runner’s high.” 

"In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain — the region that helps regulate mood — is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression," said Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Start with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15.”

Get your Vitamin D levels checked. 

In addition to regulating one’s mood, Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining heart and bone health. But instead of popping a daily supplement with 2000 IU of Vitamin D3, have your doctor do a blood test. 

“Vitamin D is perhaps the single most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition,” Dr. Michael Holick, author of “The UV Advantage,” told NaturalNews.com. “Sufficient vitamin D prevents prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, depression, colon cancer, and schizophrenia.”  

Call a friend. 

While binge-watching another season of Shameless may sound like a good idea at the time, avoiding others isn’t going to do anything except make things worse

“There’s an abundance of evidence from around the world that social support, whether from family or friends or church or work, decreases the likelihood of depression and psychological distress,” Dr. Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist and the CEO of Global Medical Education in New York City, told Everyday Health

We’re not saying you need to get up and go dancing – just making an effort to call your friends and make plans to visit your local park or a museum will do the trick. 

Consider light therapy.

Light therapy is another way to treat SAD, specifically. Light therapy is exactly what it sounds like – using a bright light (a light therapy box) to ease symptoms of depression, insomnia, and other conditions. 

“I think interest in light therapy is definitely increasing,” Michael Hamblin, Ph.D., an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School told WebMD.com. “Instead of trekking to the doctor’s office to have light shined on them, consumers can now shine light on themselves at home. The light is basically the same, there are few safety issues, and it is a fraction of the cost.”

Get some rest. 

Getting a good night’s sleep can actually ease your depression. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression when compared to those who sleep well. 

“If we don't get adequate sleep, our mood is going to be more depressed, we're not going to be as sharp cognitively, our thinking is not going to be as alert,” Dr. William Kohler, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute told LiveScience.com. “And with lack of sleep, there are long-term potential consequences and changes in our health: Our immune system is not going to function as well if we do not get adequate sleep, and we're going to have a tendency to put on weight.”

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for how to overcome the winter blues? Tell us in the comments! 

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