Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was officially named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and his contemporaries at the National Institute for Mental Health. Since then, the condition has transformed from an easily-discarded mood issue to a commonly accepted disorder that now resides in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It tends to affect those that reside in areas that have more pronounced seasons. Only about 1.4% of Florida residents report a prevalence of SAD where Alaskans are diagnosed with SAD at a rate of 9.9%. As winter approaches, it’s important to know Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment options.
The simple math shows that as you stray farther from the equator you see increased cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Knowing this, individuals who want to improve their mood and overall sense of wellbeing should consider infrared saunas as an effective and healthy way of treating Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What Causes SAD?
Most researchers point to several causes for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but even after 30+ years of research, most theories are still just theoretical. There is a lot of research on the topic, but most of them point to a disruption in our circadian rhythms due to changes in atmospheric lighting. When the winter months arrive, the days tend to get shorter, sunlight is in shorter supply, the environment is colder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms arise. These natural habitat changes reinforce the correlation between location and Seasonal Affective Disorder prevalence.
Some researchers point to the fact that we may be hard-wired to experience the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder due to early human’s need to conserve energy during the food-scarce winter months. A lack of food and substantially colder temperatures may have caused our ancient relatives to go into a sort of hibernation mode, where a low mood and lack of desire to complete tasks may have been a life-saving temperament.
Other researchers talk about the depression that comes from the amount of serotonin in our systems. Melatonin production is essentially regulated by our circadian clocks, but it can be affected by exposure to bright light. Seasonal Affective Disorder is, by most accounts, a direct correlation to the amount of light we’re exposed to, and at what specific duration.
What are Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments?
Most therapists agree that the safest and most effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy. While there are drug-based options and cognitive-behavioral therapy steps that can be taken, light therapy for SAD is often considered to be the safest and quickest way to shake the symptoms of this seasonal depression.
So you may be asking yourself, how exactly does light therapy work? Can I simply stand outside and increase my exposure to the sun? Or, do I need to go to a doctor’s office to receive treatment? While standing outside in the sun can increase levels of Vitamin-D production, mainly due to exposure to UVB rays, employing this method increases your risk of skin cancer. As a result, this should be done in moderation. Going to a doctor’s office isn’t really a viable option unless you have a lot of time on your hands and have no access to light therapy equipment. A great option for most people is to spend time in a sauna that has chromotherapy lighting. This is generally considered to be a great way to address Seasonal Affective Disorder and its related side effects.
Have the Blues? Consider Red or Green!
Toward the end of December each year, our days get to their shortest point and some major cities in the US see only 9-10 hours of sunlight per day. Barrow, Alaska sees none! This is the time of year when most symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder develop, and understanding the value of light therapy can truly help to stave off the most debilitating side effects of SAD.
According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, bright light can stimulate cells in the retina that connect directly to the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that controls circadian rhythms. By using light therapy to stimulate this part of the brain, a normal circadian rhythm can be obtained and Seasonal Affective Disorder will be minimized.
How Can a Sauna Help?
Many of today’s better saunas come equipped with built-in lights that are designed to deliver a calming and therapeutic effect. This process of light therapy for SAD is called chromotherapy, and refers to the use of lights to create changes in mood in the person using the sauna. If you find that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a reality for you or a loved one, try to find time to get in an infrared sauna with LED color lights that can help in a variety of ways. Each color has been shown to help elicit specific changes in the body and mind:
- Red: Shown to boost energy and promote faster healing when used in tandem with infrared sauna therapy.
- Orange: Sparks greater mental activity and can induce an uplifting sense of cheerful emotions.
- Yellow: Shown to create feelings of optimism, good humor, and positivity.
- Green: One of the best light therapy hues for combating Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it can calm one down quickly and directly counteract the side effects of SAD.
- Blue: Minimizes the feelings of anxiety and depression. Blue light has even been shown to improve the look and health of one’s skin!
- Purple: Delivers a calming effect that can even help to overcome feelings of pain. Purple is a tranquil color that stimulates white blood cell production.
- White: By combining red, green, and blue, white light delivers a triple-threat of healing power.
If you find that Seasonal Affective Disorder has become a reality in your life, don’t suffer any longer! You’ll discover that the wellness and health benefits of infrared saunas with chromotherapy can help as an effective Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment and improve your quality of life in no time. That, plus the extensive list of other health benefits related to consistent sauna use, makes spending time in the warm, cozy confines of an infrared sauna a practical and intelligent idea.