Sunlight, good sleep habits are the best medicine for seasonal depression

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BYU psychology experts give students practical advice to combat seasonal affective disorder during the pandemic. (Photo illustration by Sydnee Gonzalez)

BYU experts say there are ways to combat seasonal depression from home despite the isolation caused by COVID-19.

BYU psychology professor Chad Jensen and Klint Hobbs, Counseling and Psychological Services psychologist and outreach coordinator, gave specific measures students can take to battle seasonal affective disorder.

“The top three things I’d recommend would be to increase their light exposure early in the morning (which can also be called phototherapy), have an exercise routine of at least five days a week for 30 minutes or more, and include an Omega 3 supplement in their diet,” Jensen said.

Both experts also emphasized the importance of improving sleeping habits.

“Sleep disruption is heavily implicated in typical depression, and so maintaining a healthy sleep schedule primes students to cope more effectively with depression,” Hobbs said.

Improving sleep habits is a key to gaining good overall health, but what many may not know is sunlight exposure directly helps individuals sleep.

“When you expose yourself to early morning light at the start of your day, not only does your mood improve but your body knows through that light exposure it is time to wake up which in turn improves your sleep cycles,” Jensen said.

By accessing that early morning light, people can notify their bodies when it is time to get going for the day and when it is time to go to bed. Once someone improves their sleeping patterns their mood will improve despite the colder temperatures, Jensen said.

Along with sleeping habits, Jensen said it is important to remember to exercise and eat nutritious foods to keep an individual’s mind and body functioning at an optimal level.

Jensen said a good dosage of the Omega 3 supplement includes “two 500 mg Omega 3 capsules twice daily for a total daily dose of 2,000 mg of Omega 3.”

To find more information on seasonal depression and ways to combat it during the pandemic, contact the BYU CAPS Office.

“CAPS treats depression very effectively, and CAPS therapists can help tailor treatment to the specific symptoms of the student experiencing seasonal affective disorder,” Hobbs said.

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