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How to: Overcoming SAD

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Maybe it's the shortened hours of sunlight, maybe it's the fact that no one wants to leave her house for more than five minutes -- whatever the reason -- Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, impacts nearly 20 percent of the population every winter.

But experts at the University of Iowa say that feeling SAD doesn't have to last all winter.

"This is always a tough time of year, but this year is really the worst," said UI social work specialist Nancee Blum.

Blum said, she doesn't have hard numbers, but feels like more and more people have been bummed out by the extreme cold this season. She said people should pay attention if they're feeling particularly low.

"They often just don't have their usual energy, sometimes their motivation seems to be gone, they want to sleep more," and they crave comfort foods, like sweets, she said.

And that's all because of a lack of sun. But, Blum said, there is a way to replicate the affect those rays have on us by using a full-spectrum LED phototherapy light.

"The full spectrum lights give you simulated sunlight, but you don't have ultraviolet lights," which can be dangerous to eyesight, Blum said.

The idea is, the simulated sunlight hits the back of your retina, and helps cut down on the production of melatonin, one of the chemicals that makes you feel like hibernating.

And it's a relatively easy thing to do. Having a phototherapy light on your desk for even 30 minutes a day can make most people feel happier in a week or two.

"So if I were sitting here working at the computer, I'd be looking at the screen, glancing at the light, going back to the screen," Blum said.

Add to that some positive behaviors you already know, such as eating healthier and exercising, and you're well on your way to a brighter mood -- sun or no sun.

"Regardless if you do 10 minutes of workout or an hour workout, you're making chemistry in the body that helps alleviate stress, helps alleviate anxiety," said CoreFitness personal trainer Jake Villahauer.

You can find an effective phototherapy light online or in a medical supply store for less than $50, Blum said.
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