Now that it is December, and the shortest days of the year are quickly upon us, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, can be a common encounter. “Bright Ideas for Winter Blues” is a fairly good review article on the state of current thinking regarding SAD, and its treatments. It gives a solid overview of the issues involved with light therapy and the kinds that actually work. It refers the reader to www.cet.org (Center for Environmental Therapy) and has a questionnaire to determine what time of day the light therapy would maximize your wakefulness depending on your own individual circadian rhythm and when your brain probably secretes melatonin.

I actually went to the site and took the test to see when would be ideal for me— 6:15 am, and I am hardly a morning person! It would have to be way better than coffee, at that time of the morning! And maybe the idea is if it can get you to wake at that time of the day, you can do anything! But the article does mention that in addition to lights, antidepressants, natural sunlight, and exercise can often help as well. They throw in Vitamin D, which seems to be this decade’s cause of all the world’s problems, but they admit there is really no good data to support it as a treatment for SAD. CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is mentioned as treatment for maladaptive thought patterns that come about due to the depression, and actually helped a fair number of people. It was better at preventing a recurrence the following winter than anything else, which I was very surprised about. I left out the other treatments that really provide little benefit, from my point of view, but you can read the article to see what they come up with.

I still feel there is nothing better than a week on a sunny beach in the Caribbean during midwinter, if you can get away, or a ski trip with blue sky and sun reflecting on the bright white snow, providing you can get out of bed and have the energy to travel!