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“Happy New Year” wishes can ring false to those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “Winter Blues”. It’s a type of depression that impacts individuals during months of little sun. However, there are a number of dimensions of health and wellness, and lacking in any of them can lead to this seasonal depression.

That’s why we’ve created this round-up of apps, tools, and websites to help improve quality of your life — including a tool specifically for SAD sufferers at the end!

Do remember: If you feel you are suffering from SAD, it is important to seek the help of a trained medical professional.

Eat Right

What you eat can impact your health and happiness, so don’t neglect it.

Calorie Counting

Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal (Free) is a cross-platform app that will help you track the food you eat and the exercise you do, so you can measure your progress towards achieving your weight goal. We found it the best calorie counting app on the iPhone MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter - The Best Weight Loss App On The iPhone MyFitnessPal Calorie Counter - The Best Weight Loss App On The iPhone Everyone knows that losing weight is difficult. It requires a certain level of commitment that not everyone is prepared for. However, when you meet those weight loss goals, it is one of the most satisfying... Read More  in 2012.

calorie-counter.png-1

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Meal Planning

If meal-planning is the tricky part, give Eat This Much a try. It’s a website that will automatically plan your meals Automatically Plan Your Meals & Make Dieting Easier With Eat This Much Automatically Plan Your Meals & Make Dieting Easier With Eat This Much One of the reasons for struggling with diets is the amount of work it takes organizing a diet that will help make you slim and healthy while providing some respite from the continual grind of... Read More for you, and more.

If you have a tablet or smartphone you can prop up, it can be really handy for cooking. You’ll find a variety of apps with healthy food recipes on Windows 8 Love Food & Healthy Recipes? Check Out These Windows 8 Apps Love Food & Healthy Recipes? Check Out These Windows 8 Apps Get great meal ideas for all types of diets. With a portable touchscreen device, you can even prepare your meals with your computer in the kitchen! Read More , great for the Microsoft Surface users, for example. Just try not to touch the screen with messy cooking fingers (seal it in an ordinary zip-lock bag, and the touchscreen will still work)!

Community

Of course, sometimes what you really need to get motivated to work towards healthy living is a community with whom you can share experiences, sympathy, and pep talks. Reddit.com can be an amazing resource How To Use Reddit Productively. Yes, You Read That Correctly. How To Use Reddit Productively. Yes, You Read That Correctly. Reddit’s just a huge timesink? Wrong. It’s an endless supply of relevant information, if you know where to look. Here’s how to use Reddit more productively. Read More  for community and productivity, not just a place for memes, so check out one of these healthy-living subreddits 4 Subreddits You Should Read For Tips To Stay Healthy and Fit 4 Subreddits You Should Read For Tips To Stay Healthy and Fit I will tell you right now that I couldn't possible write an article about living a healthy life. I'm a self-confessed Taco Bell connoisseur. However, I can certainly tell you where you can find some other health tips.... Read More  and you’ll be sure to find people who share your challenges and would love to help.

healthyfood

Get Active

Studies have long shown that exercise can improve mood and ease depression. According to Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University,

“The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.” – The Exercise Effect, American Psychological Association

Apps

You don’t need to go to the gym How To Workout Without Going To The Gym How To Workout Without Going To The Gym It's hard enough setting aside time for actual exercise, but throw in your commute and it can add up to a lot of wasted time. Try these effective workouts without ever leaving your home. Read More to get a good workout. There are good Android workout apps Stay Fit: The 5 Best Quick Workout Apps For Android Stay Fit: The 5 Best Quick Workout Apps For Android Need to find the time to exercise? These apps can help you with only a few minutes of your day. Read More that can show you how to exercise your whole body in minutes a day. iPhone owners can try FitStar Fit Forget The Gym, Get Fitstar Fit With Your iPad Or iPhone Forget The Gym, Get Fitstar Fit With Your iPad Or iPhone If you don't get enough exercise there's a good chance you'll be expiring long before the rest of us – and you don't want that, do you? Read More , or find workout exercises, photos, and videos with apps like Skimble Workout Trainer (Free).

Gadgets

For automated exercise-goal-measurement, try a digital fitness tracker The 8 Best Fitness Gadgets to Help You Get in Shape The 8 Best Fitness Gadgets to Help You Get in Shape With the increasing onset of wearable tech, the Internet of things and smart gadgets, it is now easier than ever to get in shape. Read More . You don’t have to buy the expensive Apple Watch to get a great one either — there are several iPhone-friendly wearables Not The Apple Watch: 9 Other iPhone-Friendly Wearables Not The Apple Watch: 9 Other iPhone-Friendly Wearables The announcement of the Apple Watch was big news, but it's far from the only wearable device designed to be used with an iPhone. Read More  that can track fitness goals too.

Best-Gifts-For-Geeks-Under-100-Dollars-Garmin-Vivofit-Jawbone-UP24-smart-bands

For the Android users and those who prefer not to pair it up with a smartphone, there are other options, such as the Fitbit Flex to the Jawbone UP Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone UP: A Comparative Review Fitbit Flex vs. Jawbone UP: A Comparative Review In today's world, nothing escapes the fact that we are moving in a direction where quantifying and recording stuff obsessively is sort of the norm. We use Foursquare to check into places, we annoyingly take... Read More , to the Endomondo Sports Tracker Endomondo Sports Tracker Helps You Keep Track Of Your Fitness Goals [Android] Endomondo Sports Tracker Helps You Keep Track Of Your Fitness Goals [Android] In many parts of the northern hemisphere, we're just starting to see the first signs that Spring might be on its way. Even if you're not lucky enough to be seeing these signs yet, in... Read More , to the Basis B1 Health Tracker Sportwatch Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Want to lose weight and think clearer? You might find help from the Basis B1 Health Tracker smartwatch. Read More . If none of those is right for you, check out our round-up of other fitness gadgets The 8 Best Fitness Gadgets to Help You Get in Shape The 8 Best Fitness Gadgets to Help You Get in Shape With the increasing onset of wearable tech, the Internet of things and smart gadgets, it is now easier than ever to get in shape. Read More  to help you get in shape.

Sleep Well

Poor quality sleep has been linked to depression and vice versa, so getting a good night’s sleep can be a tricky one. However, smartphones can help you carry apps to sleep better Use These Apps to Help You Sleep Better [Android & iOS] Use These Apps to Help You Sleep Better [Android & iOS] After a hectic day, the best thing you can do is to get a beneficial amount of sleep. There are always new studies appearing that prove how important sleep really is to a person, improving... Read More and wake more refreshed. Apps like Sleep As Android can calibrate your alarm clock to wake you during your lightest phase of sleep Can An App Really Help You Sleep Better? Can An App Really Help You Sleep Better? I've always been a bit of a sleep experimenter, having for much of my life kept a meticulous dream diary and studied as much as I could about sleeping in the process. There are a... Read More .

sleep-as-android-alarm

Apps and hardware have even been designed to help you achieve lucid dreaming Don't Waste Your Sleep - Apps and Hardware to Induce Lucid Dreaming Don't Waste Your Sleep - Apps and Hardware to Induce Lucid Dreaming It's rare for technology to have such a developed presence in what are otherwise considered quite holistic practices, but lucid dreaming is one of those subjects where technology has indeed come a long way. Today... Read More , where you can consciously control your dreams.

Unfortunately, this kind of technology can’t help much if stress is causing your insomnia or depression problems.

De-Stress

It’s no secret that too much stress can make you angry or depressed, reduce your productivity, or even make you sick. I have no ground-breaking advice in this area to give, unfortunately. Find a stress-reliever that works for you, and don’t give up until you find one. Remember to breathe — there are even iPhone apps to help relieve stress Stop. Breathe. Relax. 7 iOS Apps To Relieve Stress Stop. Breathe. Relax. 7 iOS Apps To Relieve Stress What a stressful day! We all have them from time to time, and while the best possible way to relax (at least in my book) is to leave everything and take a walk outside, this... Read More .

Some other things you can do:

Most of all, don’t give up. Seek help from a counselor, therapist, or trusted friend or relative if your stress problems (or other issues) are severe.

Reach Out

There is no shortage of online communities who help people through depression Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Talking is important, and sometimes the Internet is a good substitute when your real life friends aren't around. Here are three sites I recommend for less formal depression-focused conversations. Read More more generally. The /r/depression sub-reddit community has over 90,000 subscribers, and they have very supportive policies.

SAD - Subreddit

Get More Light

Studies show the therapeutic effects of light on people with SAD.  Those of you who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder specifically, look into getting a wake-up light like this Philips GoLite. 15-30 minutes under the bright blue light gives you extra energy you’re missing from the sun, and can jump-start your morning.

Phillips GoLite

What’s Your Take?

What are your favourite ways to reduce stress and improve happiness? Let us know in the comments, and have a happy and healthy new year!

  1. Flavia
    January 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Your blog post didn't mention this, but Vitamin D supplements also help. There are several studies that support this.
    Example: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression
    You have to experiment to find the right amount that works for you. Most people start with 1000 ius a day and increase or decrease accordingly.

    A combination of Vitamin D supplements, a balanced diet (avoid eating too many carbs cause they tend to make you feel worse), exercising (even something as simple as a walk outside around 12-2pm when the sun is the highest in the sky), light therapy, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, as well as joining an online community or support group can help a lot.

    Recommended online community: http://www.dailystrength.org/
    Sooooo many people suffer from SAD so you should never feel like you're alone. Lots of people understand what you are going through and have tips on how to manage it effectively.

    Recommended additional reading: "Winter Blues" by Norman E. Rosenthal MD.
    This is the bible on Seasonal Affective Disorder. A must-read for any SAD sufferer: http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Blues-Fourth-Edition-Everything/dp/1609181859

    • Jessica C
      January 8, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      Wow! Thanks for all the great resources here, Flavia!

      Vitamin D is also good for people who just don't get out much in the sun - a lack of it can lead to weak bones. Also applies to people with fair skin who can't handle a lot of sun before getting sunburns. (Always wear sunscreen in the summer!)

  2. Pat
    January 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I was thinking of getting one of these until I did a bit of research.
    From the Mayo Clinic
    Caution for bipolar disorder

    Light therapy may trigger mania in some people with bipolar disorder. If you have any concerns about how light therapy may be affecting your mood or thoughts, seek help right away.
    My son has this...we'll stick with good eating and good drugs.

    • Jessica C
      January 8, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks for the word of warning, Pat!

      Wishing you & your son good weather,
      Jessica

  3. Mark O'Neill
    January 7, 2015 at 12:06 am

    My depression is affected by the weather and the lack of sunlight. So as you can imagine, winter is a huge barrel of laughs for me! Rain, wind, and snow, and it's dark by 4.30pm!!

    So on my desk, I have a really big lamp which gives off fake sunlight (similar to the one you showed above). One hour every morning. It isn't a total solution, but it helps.

    • Jessica C
      January 8, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Where I live it starts getting dark in December/January at 4pm. It sucks.

      The SAD light works for me a bit too, but it glares a bit on the eyes. Catch-22 there a bit...

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