Body, Mind and Spirit: SADD: Seasonal affective disorder depression


By Pat Larsen

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a female named Pat Larsen
Pat Larsen

As if things weren’t already feeling more and more out of control than even last year’s pandemic sweep across our state, now we have frigid temperatures, increasing variants that are triggering agencies to clamp down on our freedoms and choices, again keeping us tucked “inside.”

Add many around us getting sick despite three to four vaccinations and now this… a disorder that affects 5% of adults in the U.S. and around the northern climates; that’s a total 10 million people a year.

Here’s the actual definition of SADD, or seasonal affective disorder depression. This disorder is linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter.

SADD is more common among women than men. Its impact can be felt by lack of motivation, decreased desire to exercise, poor dietary choices, difficulties with daily functions, making and concentrating on making decisions, and in severe cases, thoughts of death and suicide. The typical age range is from late teens well past the 60s.

If you read my column regularly, you already know I’m going to extend that olive branch and offer a variety of hopeful solutions than may help you or a loved one who might be affected by this.

By the way, I have experienced this disorder, although mild, and I was able to identify it and quickly made some shifts to help myself overcome the obstacles it presented in my life. So keep reading.

Here’s a list of solutions to SADD that you can begin to explore for yourself.

  • Light Therapy: The thing that we lose in the late fall/winter months is our need for the enrichments to our circadian rhythms that natural sunlight gives us during other seasons. So with storms and gray skies often the case, we begin to sink into that state of longing for balance within. There are products that reproduce that sense of light in a “light box” available at a variety of places locally, including pharmacies, big box stores or online at the always ready to serve, Amazon, retailer.

I purchased my “light box’ from Amazon about eight years ago and once the time change begins in the fall, I start using it. I set it up close to a place where I have my morning coffee and I use it every day. You pick the intensity, from low to high, and set the timer from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. It’s as simple as that.

Most people will see improvements in their overall demeanor in one to two weeks. I saw an improvement almost immediately. It’s most likely because I have a strong belief in that Mind*Body connection, hence the title of this column. To maintain the benefits and to prevent a relapse into this state you would continue to use this treatment into the winter until spring.

  • Talk Therapy: Talk therapy can also effectively treat SADD. As of late, we have been cut off again because of the ongoing pandemic from our social network and our community, and it has adversely impacted our ability to rise above our mood swings.

Our feelings of isolation and loneliness are overwhelming us in many ways, even on physical levels. Having someone to be able to talk to about these overwhelming feelings is essential.

I’m hoping our medical professionals will soon find that much-needed time to ask about our mental health during a doctor’s visit and with some honest dialogue be able to suggest one of the many professionals that can offer support in the form of talk therapy.

I’m hoping this shift will come soon. There are many more needs in our community than what is being focused on! Please doctors, PAs, nurse practitioners — ask us how we’re doing.

  • Natural Light: Getting outside and having increased exposure to natural light can improve symptoms of SADD. Consider rearranging furnishings so you can be exposed to sunlight during the daytime hours by sitting nearer a sun lit window.
  • Exercise: Exercise as soon as the weather permits a walk safely outside or walk around the house. 

Walk for 10 minutes in your kitchen waiting for the pasta to cook. There’s lots of ways to 10 ten minutes in.

Even if you walk for 10 minutes, twice a day, either inside or outside, you’ll see an improvement in your mood.

  • Keep It Light: If you do watch TV, find programs that are light in nature (no pun intended; well, maybe just a little). Remember the remote sits in your hands and you can make better choices to improve the quality of the shows you watch and a comedy beats a murder mystery. (Here’s a fun fact…in murder mysteries, somebody dies and there’s lots of drama in between until it’s revealed who the guilty party is that you already figured out.) In a comedy, you don’t care who dies, you’re just reacting and enjoying your time much more. You release feel-good endorphins and you feel better. But that’s a topic for another column,

Have I got you laughing yet? I hope just a little.

So if you’ve continued to read to nearly the end of this column, most likely you or someone you care about has been affected by SADD to some degree. If you would like more information about a light-therapy box, please email me at the address below and I’ll do my best to send you some options you can consider. They’re pretty reasonably priced and basically last forever.

I wish you, our county, our state and our world to soon be able to resume a place of peace, harmony and freedom from constant anxiety and worry. May we all be able to LIGHTEN up in order to reconnect the Body and Mind to a renewed Spirit where Faith replaces Fear.

Pat Larsen is a licensed fitness instructor specializing in music and movement, toning and balance for seniors, active baby boomers and adults. Winter session will  resume soon at the Shamrock House in East Durham, NY, on Monday and Thursday mornings. Please call for details. Programs are offered in acupressure techniques for everyday ailments; guided meditation instruction and demo to soothe the mind and body. Pat Larsen is certified in hypnosis therapy. Readings and private sessions are available by appointment. Call 518-275-8686 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or email at

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