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Most of us have heard of depression; a mental disorder that causes people to feel constantly sad because of an imbalance of chemicals in their brain. This is a disorder that has affected many people and comes in many different forms.

One of those forms is winter depression. Or, the official diagnosis, seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD

Seasonal affective disorder occurs during the winter or in the summer, but it’s most common in the winter. Winter depression has the same symptoms as normal depression, but only occurs during certain seasons.

According to the Mayo Clinic, half of the United States’ population is affected by SAD It’s most common in young adults and can be occasionally found in children and older adults. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but a popular theory is it comes from a lack of sunlight. It messes with your internal clock, and that’s why it affects people’s sleep patterns and other parts of the brain.

All of this causes the following symptoms: a loss of interest in hobbies, need for sleep, sadness, not being interested in social activities and many more. That’s why it is so much more common in high altitude areas, since there are times of the year where they get no sunlight at all. It’s been a problem in high altitude areas for a long time, since places like Alaska can be in darkness for up to 67 days.

SAD is treatable with medication, but there are other ways to help it. It is important to go to a professional when dealing with SAD, but other changes in your lifestyle can help with the depression and prevent it.

Exercising regularly can bring up your mood and help with sunlight exposure, along with becoming generally healthier.

Having a good diet is also very important. Keeping a stable diet without a lot of carbs and sugar will help, since one of the illness’ symptoms is a craving for carbs.

Another good way of preventing the disorder is to stay busy with social activities or events. Getting out is important since the depression will discourage you from being with people and going outside. One of the best ways of doing that is engaging in sports. They require social interaction and you can get some great exercise.

According to wellnessmama.com, some other good ways are eating more foods with vitamin D and keeping a balanced blood sugar level.

If you’re seeing signs of depression of any kind, therapy is also a way to go. Even though SAD may seem more seasonally orientated, it still is depression and you can always go to therapy. It may feel overwhelming and it’s good to go to therapy to find ways to cope.

Finally, my last piece of advice would be to enjoy winter. Staying busy with winter activities and staying healthy will really help prevent winter depression. Everyone should get to enjoy this season and all the ones to come.