There's a sad day that arrives each year: You've spent hours writing emails, attending meetings, and giving presentations only to glance outside at 4 p.m. and see the sun has made its way up and back down without you ever leaving the office. Though there is beauty to be found in the crisp, coldness of the fall and winter, there's also a dip in happiness levels across the country. Appropriately-abbreviated to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is very common.
"This form of depression impacts people, especially those living in the Midwest and the upper part of the East Coast, during the winter months when natural sunlight is rare. Most people living in these areas suffer with SAD to some extent," explains psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC. Even if you don't feel the impact of the "winter blues" very much, you may notice an attitude and personality shift in your partner. To help him or her through this quarter of the year, consider these tactics and helpful hints, straight from psychologists.
Buy a Light Machine
One of the most impactful ways to alleviate the symptoms of SAD is to give your partner's body the one ingredient it's craving and missing: sunshine. Though Dr. Martinez says many people have never heard of a light machine, or they assume it won't make a difference, they're actually clinically proven to be effective, and have even gained the seal of approval from the Mayo Clinic. "An individual uses the machine in the morning for 15 to 45 minutes while they have their coffee, check their e-mail, and prepare for the day," she explains. "There is a quick, noticeable boost in mood with just days of use."
Take a Vacation
Plan a trip or staycation says Erica Hornthal, a licensed dance therapist and founder of Chicago Dance Therapy. A change in scenery encourages your partner to get out of his or her head and into the moment and the experience. She notes that even getting a local hotel room or at a town an hour away can be enough to shake up your spouse's routine and get them out of their funk.
Make Plans with Friends
One of the key characteristics that connects all forms of depression is a desire to stay isolated and away from other people, even loved ones. Hornthal says that while dragging your S.O. out of the house may be a lot of work, being around other people is one of the best solutions to tame SAD symptoms. "When you're feeling down, it is even more important to surround yourselves with people and places that bring you happiness and joy," she says. Invite your partner's pals over for dinner or come up with plans they can't refuse.
The very last thing you want to do when you're not feeling like your happy-go-lucky self is get up and sweat it out. The effort working out requires often feels like a stretch for many who suffer from SAD, but Hornthal notes that movement can change your mood. "Not only exercise, but also everyday movement such as walking posturing even gesturing, can change our outlook and refocus our thoughts and behaviors," she says. If a long run or an intense spin class is out of the question, Hornthal suggests simply asking your main squeeze to dance with you. "Dancing can help lift your spirits reconnect you to your body and mind and release endorphins that bring joy and an overall sense of happiness," she explains.
Make Healthy Choices
While seeing your partner down in the dumps may inspire you to do all that you can to raise their spirits, resist the urge to bake their favorite cake or grab a few bottles of their go-to liquor. According to Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms. "Taking care of yourself can help lower some of the depressive symptoms and increase self-satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of having some control over the SAD," she says. "Periodically remind your significant other to eat healthy and appropriate amounts of food, drink enough water, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and connect with loved ones, including you, for emotional support."