How to Battle SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with Technology

Who knew tech could actually make us better?

Flickr / Jon Bunting

It doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that winter can be a real downer. While some may dismiss the importance of a drop in mood that accompanies the darker days, seasonal affective disorder is an annual state of depression that affects around five percent of people in the U.S., medical researchers say.

Those with SAD aren’t affected just one time in their life, but annually show symptoms in the late fall or early winter, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The symptoms of SAD mirror those of depression — low energy, oversleeping, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating — except they disappear as soon as it gets sunny in the spring. While there are less common forms that cause depression during the summer, winter-specific SAD is often linked to a lack of sunlight that affects your body’s levels of mood-controlling seratonin and melatonin, which controls your “biological clock” and sleep patterns, WebMD says.

But emerging technologies have brought new and innovative ideas to psychiatry that can help those with SAD Whether these products focus on brightening our external environment or internal mood, anyone who is brought down in the winter could benefit from these tools developed to fight off SAD.


8. Vitamin D

This is likely the most well-known and commonly used remedy in the winter. What better way to copy the benefits we get from sunlight than going right to the source — Vitamin D. Studies show the majority of people are deficient of this nutrient that strengthens the immune system, and are especially so when the sun doesn’t shine as bright. Bottles of Vitamin D supplements can be found in any drug store for cheap in a variety of forms, including pill capsules, chewable gummies, and powders like Emergen-C that are mixed with water.


7. Water Intake Reminders

Your mom told you plenty growing up: you need to drink more water. Well, her reminders may be important in helping you combat SAD. Depression can be linked to a lack of water, since both our bodies and our brain tissue are made up of majority water, researchers say. Studies show that people who drink too little water are more prone to headaches, exhaustion, and worsened moods. Luckily, technology has honed in on this dehydration issue. Amazon’s Alexa can be linked to a smartphone app called H2O Pal, which lets you track your intake and ask Alexa about your intake status. Smart water bottles can audibly remind you when to drink water, can connect to your Fitbit fitness band, or make your water the perfect drinking temperature. If you’re someone who doesn’t like the taste of water, this water bottle has a compartment for flavor infusers, and appliances like SodaStream can make you forget you’re drinking water.


6. Aromatherapy

Essential oils made of flowers and other natural products actually have a bunch of uses, including application to your skin, spray in the air, and dissolved in baths. Since they’re frequently used as mood boosters and stress reducers, essential oils’ chemicals can be used in depression therapy. Aromatherapy treatments contain chemicals that trigger receptors in the part of your brain that controls mood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Essential oils can be used in many ways: diffusers and humidifiers; bath bombs, air spray; and lotions.


5. Talk Therapy Apps

Simple talk therapy is often a solution, but many have dismissed therapists because of work hours and busy lives. An app called Talkspace provides online therapy so you don’t have to travel to an office plus it’s much more affordable (starting at $32 a week) than therapists through insurance. The app claims to have more than 1,000 licensed therapists available that have specific issue focuses, including those that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a method that’s seen to be particularly beneficial for people with S.A.D. and depression. The app has grown significantly in popularity and has more than a half million users.


4. Light Boxes

Light therapy has been cited as an effective tool to combat SAD, WebMD says. This therapy is provided through a light box, which provides brightness indoors that mimics natural light. Although available in different degrees and types of brightness, these fixtures are a lot brighter than a normal lamp and are designed to be used for just couple hours a day. Light boxes can range from $30 energy lamps to $170 therapy glasses, but an assortment can be found on Amazon.


3. Dawn Simulators

Instead of focusing on when you’re awake, dawn simulators are designed to, as the name indicates, mimic the sun rising with increasingly bright light. This intense light is supposed to accelerate your body’s production of melatonin and regulate your sleep cycle, according to Sleep Review Magazine. Dawn simulators work like alarm clocks, set for each morning to wake your at a certain time and make it easier to get out of bed. These dawn simulators are sold anywhere from $30 up to $120.


2. Quick Workout Apps

It’s nothing new that exercise produces endorphins that can reduce stress and depression, but anyone who has been depressed knows how hard it can be to get to the gym or exert energy for a workout. But short, quick workouts are more manageable, and there are numerous smartphone apps with ideas for exercises you can do at home. There are free apps that provide a limited number of daily workouts, and previews you can test out before deciding to buy, like Seven Minute Workout and the Nike Training app.


1. Meditation Apps

Headspace is an incredibly popular phone app for meditation and mindfulness exercises. Psychological experts say mindfulness can be a beneficial long-term technique for those with depression. This therapy aims to alter the patterns in our thinking and make us more aware of the thoughts we have, the American Psychological Association says. Headspace is just one of many apps (which can be found here) with mindfulness exercises, which vary from guided lengthy mind workouts to “S.O.S.” options for those who need a quick reprieve from an anxiety attack or mental breakdown. You can download the app and try a 10-minute session for free, but the full list of exercises will cost $13 a month.

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