It’s no laughing matter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects almost one-third of the UK’s population. In this article, we explain what SAD is and how the symptoms can be reduced through massage therapy.
Seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – is a type of depression that occurs periodically. Many people suffer it during the coldest and darkest months of every year.
Depression is more than simply having a few bad days. Depression is about having an unshakeable period of feeling low over an extended period time. Sadness is perhaps the best known symptom but being depressed can also include apathy, general pain, anxiety, demotivation and hopelessness.
The exact causes of SAD are still being researched. However, the most common belief is that the disorder is related to ongoing periods of reduced exposure to light that in turn causes the body to produce a misbalance of certain hormones.
SAD’s association with darkness and seasonality has brought about its popular name, the “winter depression”.
If you think you might be suffering from SAD, you can take this online depression test and then discuss the results with your GP.
Many of the recommended treatments for seasonal affective disorder are based around the hypothesis that it is caused by an extended period of lack of exposure to sunlight. However, it is important to remember that the causes of SAD are not yet scientifically established. We know that it is a type of depression and that is also has many similarities to another mood destroying condition known as fybromyalgia.
We have already discussed how massage therapy can help sufferers of fibromyalgia. Fybromyalgia and seasonal affective disorder display several similar key characteristics:
It is likely that sufferers of SAD will feel many of the same benefits that massage therapy offers fibromyalgia sufferers.
A wide range of specialist lighting products now exist on the market which aim to counter the effect of reduced sunlight hours during winter months.
These lamps, known as SAD lamps, automatically switch on during dark periods in the daytime and emit a bright light which is a similar hue and warmth to natural daylight. The idea is to replicate the effect of natural summer lighting throughout the day time.
It is believed that exposure to this supplemental lighting during darker months can help restore the balance of important hormones in the body, such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate sleep and mood.
When the sun shines on us, our bodies convert some of that energy into a hormone called calcitriol or activated Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and a strong immune system. If your immune system is down, then it is easier for you to feel unwell and consequently suffer some of the symptoms of depression.
Taking vitamin D supplements during winter months may therefore help fight off some of the possible causes of seasonal affective disorder.
We already know that receiving empathetic and emotional massage therapy can do wonders for conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic depression, which share many of the same characteristics as SAD.
This year why not beat your winter blues by combining the various recommended treatments for SAD? Take a vitamin D supplement, pop some sleep-inducing music on in the background, switch on a SAD lamp next to your bed and lie down to a relaxing massage session specifically designed to help you fall asleep.
If you’re feeling particularly brave and temperatures have not yet plummeted where you live, you could even have your massage outdoors to absorb some natural daylight!
Finally, don’t forget that even if you cannot afford the time or cost of booking a professional massage right now, you can still massage yourself better again for free from the inside out.