CLEVELAND, Ohio – Seasonal affective disorder affects many people every year and can be a real detriment to their livelihood.

“Seasonal affective disorder is caused by the change in light and your circadian rhythms,” said Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist with Cleveland Clinic. “When there are short, cold, dark days, we experience less sunlight. This interrupts the release of serotonin and melatonin, which impact our sleep and our mood. There is also a drop in vitamin D because we get vitamin D from the sunlight.”

This can culminate in increased feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities the affected once enjoyed, lack of energy, difficulty sleeping and a change in diet.

Luckily, there are ways to cope with the condition. According to Dr. Albers, one of the easiest things you can do is spend more time outdoors; Exposure to the sun can boost your vitamin D levels and elevate your mood. Even sitting near a window for a few minutes each day helps.

Another option Dr. Albers recommends is getting a light therapy lamp.

“This is a lamp that you put on your table for 20 minutes in the morning and it helps to mimic some of that sunlight, which can produce a lot of the feel good chemicals in the brain that we absorb from the sunlight,” she said.

If there seems to be a lack of improvement with time or symptoms appear to be getting worse, Dr. Albers recommends seeking the help of a mental health professional.