Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care And Sauna Blankets
Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care & Sauna Blankets
February 7th, 2023 | Mental Wellness
Should You Use an Infrared Sauna Blanket to Improve Your Mood?
When we imagine the colder months, our minds might present an image of cozy nights spent snuggling up under knit blankets by the fire. And as lovely as this sounds, it’s not the whole picture.
With shorter and darker days, many individuals experience increased feelings of sadness called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Commonly referred to as the “winter blues,” SAD is a depressive disorder that occurs in the fall and winter months1.
Yet, you don’t simply have to endure this mood change year in and year out. In fact, using an infrared sauna blanket can help alleviate the symptoms associated with SAD. But before we dive into Seasonal Affective Disorder self-care tactics, let’s take a closer look at why this mood disorder happens in the first place.
Why Do We Experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD happens due to the changes in sunlight from season to season. Individuals with SAD struggle to balance the neurotransmitter called serotonin.
This happens due to increased SERT, a protein involved with serotonin transportation2. In contrast, increased sunlight exposure in the warmer months leads to decreased SERT and higher serotonin levels. A lack of vitamin D during the winter months is also thought to play a role in reduced serotonin production3.
On top of this, individuals with SAD overproduce melatonin4. Melatonin is produced by the body in response to darkness, and it helps us feel sleepy come bedtime. Yet, excess melatonin can lead to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, which is experienced by many people with SAD.
In fact, many individuals with SAD experience irritability, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, and persistent feelings of sadness. However, there are things you can do to alleviate this and feel better, including using an infrared sauna blanket (more on this below!).
Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care: What Can You Do?
Seasonal Affective Disorder self-care isn’t restricted to the winter months. Ideally, you want to have a toolkit of self-care tactics you can turn to regularly when you need them. Below, we explore self-care strategies for reducing the symptoms of SAD.
Meditation and Mental Health
Research indicates that enhancing one’s mindfulness can lead to improved mental health and reduced symptoms of depression5. All in all, meditation offers the perfect way to improve mindfulness, practice emotional regulation, and increase your mood.
With this self-care practice, you can perform it almost anywhere and anytime. Simply find a quiet and comfortable spot and close your eyes. You may want to set a timer to ensure you don’t lose track of time. If you’re new to meditation, start with two to five minutes.
While there are many meditation options, including guided meditations online or via phone apps, you can also simply practice focusing on your breath. After closing your eyes, take a deep inhale and count to four. Make sure you’re breathing through your nose and filling up your chest and belly (This ensures you’re taking a full and deep breath). Once you’ve taken in as much air as you can over those four seconds, pause for another four seconds. Then, exhale to a count of four through your mouth. Continue to repeat this process until your time is up.
Interestingly, you can enhance the benefits of meditation even further, especially in relation to alleviating SAD symptoms, by using an infrared sauna blanket at the same time. This combination provides the perfect pairing for improving your mood, activating your parasympathetic nervous system and feeling better. In the next section, we take a closer look at using infrared sauna blankets.
Infrared Sauna Blanket Sessions
An infrared sauna blanket session is technically a form of light therapy, although the body perceives this non-visible light as heat. Research has shown the advantages of using light therapy, such as an infrared sauna blanket, for reducing depressive symptoms6.
In many ways, light therapy mimics the benefits of natural sunlight and can help enhance serotonin production. The heat provided by these infrared rays may further have various impacts on neurotransmitter production, including serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin7—all of which help us feel good!
Taking this Seasonal Affective Disorder self-care tactic a step further, an infrared sauna blanket provides a relaxing and comfortable setting to perform a meditation session. As previously mentioned, combining these two strategies can help you double down on your effort to alleviate SAD symptoms, activate your parasympathetic healing abilities, and feel better.
Talking With a Professional
There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s encouraged.
A mental health professional can work with you to determine strategies to combat negative thoughts and help you feel in control of your life. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves challenging and breaking down those negative thoughts and helping you find new ways to approach and think about life events.
While Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) isn’t an easy battle by any means, consistency with the above self-care strategies can help you pave your way toward a better life. That way, you can feel good all year round as opposed to only during the warmer and sunnier months.