With last week's unwelcoming snowfall coming to an end, we're headed for warmer days and patio-ready weather. For the glass is half full type, it's time to prepare for the fun of spring and summer -- hooray! For the glass is half empty type... well, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) doesn't stop at the sight of spring. In fact, the disorder typically lasts all the way through April. Friends and family with SAD may need a happy nudge.
Gifting for someone that may appear down and out doesn't mean you need to give them a gift that exposes their current condition -- the best kind of gift is one that makes them feel good. In order to help bring some positivity to your friends or family that may need an injection of happy, here are 11 awesome gift ideas to cheer up sad people.
1. Happy Light Therapy Lamps
Although they may be annoyingly bright for some, light therapy is popular for tickling the brain chemicals that affect mood. It's mostly known to reduce levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wake times, which improves a person's mood, energy, appetite and sleep efficiency. Especially good for those with seasonal affective disorder.
2. Herbal Tea Sets
For centuries, herbal tea has been the go-to non-alcoholic hot beverage when relaxing after a hard day's work. You may want to explore picking up some chamomile, lemon balm or catnap for starters, although there are many other herbal teas to choose from.
3. Himalayan Salt Lamps
For the recipient that spends a lot of time at home, it may be worthwhile to help transform their home chemically and physically. Household electronics can create positive ions -- some call them "electronic smog" -- which are actually bad for us. What the human body needs are negative ions, which stimulate the flow of oxygen to the brain and increase a person's mental energy, which is what these lamps create. While they are popular for converting those positive ions to negative and making homes invisibly happier, there are many other health benefits to Himalayan salt lamps.
Essential oils are believed to stimulate the olfactory system in the brain through smell, which send signals to the limbic system, directly affecting the emotions and learned memories of an individual. The rewarding effects? Relaxed and calm, which is why it's usually tied to massage therapy and other treatments. It's a worthwhile gift for those that carry a lot of stress.
5. Miniature Zen Gardens
I always found these little gardens ultra cool, but there's actually a reason for playing with the sandbox. The methodical arrangement of stones and sand, and focusing on the repetition of those physical movements, silences the mind and allows the garden owner to live in the moment, rather than get caught up in the past or future. Plus, they look awesome on an office desk.
6. BuddyBox: A Hug In a Box
If you're not sure what to choose to cheer your friend up, consider a BuddyBox. It's a subscription box service that sends out a monthly package full of gifts for those fighting depression -- helping them feel like they're not alone.
7. Super Soft Blankets
Nothing feels better than wrapping up in a warm, cozy blanket. Need I say more?
8. The Book of Awesome
This fun little book of thought provoking suggestions has been known to train individuals to pay closer attention to the smaller wins in life. Many small wins can equal or overshadow the feeling of one big win, and effectively improve a person's positivity. This global bestseller by Neil Pasricha is a must for anyone that needs to hit the reset button and remember what's most important in life.
9. Spa Gift Certificates
I'm not usually a fan of buying people gift certificates, but a spa day? Nobody has a problem with those. Most, including those with stressful jobs, rarely stop to think about their body's needs, and a good pampering is a good reminder for them. It's also great to pair with their favourite bottle of wine, if that's their thing.
10. Order Maid Service For Them
A clean home is a happy home, they say. Remove the burden of mounting dust and filthy interiors by sending a reputable maid their way. This will not only help minimize the allergens, but will also make it a more proactive space to operate in -- whether it's where they work from or where they relax.
11. Funny Blu-ray Movie or a TV Series Box Set
Comedy is a suitable remedy for the blues. Depending on their type of comedy preference, a great gift could be funny movie or TV series in a box set. If they're the slapstick kind, pick up a throwback Chris Farley or Leslie Nielsen movie for them; if they're the dry humour type, you can't go wrong with anything involving Will Ferrell or Steve Carell.
There's never an easy solution to get past the hard times. However nothing helps break out of the funk better than a good circle of friends. As we exit the most depressing season of the year, it's a good time to look out for those closest to us.
If you manage to help a friend out with one of these simple gifts, spread the good vibes and send me a tweet!
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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most commonly associated with winter blues, and it afflicts about 5 percent of Americans. But for less than 1 percent of those people, this form of depression strikes in the summer. Warm weather depression arises when the body experiences a "delay adjusting to new seasons," says Alfred Lewy, MD, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. Instead of waking and enjoying dawn, the body has a hard time adjusting, he says, which could be due to imbalances in brain chemistry and the hormone melatonin. More from Health.com: 10 Tips for Dating With Depression The Most Depressing States in the U.S. Depressing Jobs: Career Fields With Hight Rates of Depression
Smoking has long been linked with depression, though it's a chicken-or-egg scenario: People who are depression-prone may be more likely to take up the habit. However, nicotine is known to affect neurotransmitter activity in the brain, resulting in higher levels of dopamine and serotonin (which is also the mechanism of action for antidepressant drugs). This may explain the addictive nature of the drug, and the mood swings that come with withdrawal, as well as why depression is associated with smoking cessation. Avoiding cigarettes -- and staying smoke free -- could help balance your brain chemicals.
When the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, it's known as hypothyroidism, and depression is one of its symptoms. This hormone is multifunctional, but one of its main tasks is to act as a neurotransmitter and regulate serotonin levels. If you experience new depression symptoms -- particularly along with cold sensitivity, constipation and fatigue -- a thyroid test couldn't hurt. Hypothyroidism is treatable with medication.
It's no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, but it could also increase the risk of depression. A 2007 study found that when healthy participants were deprived of sleep, they had greater brain activity after viewing upsetting images than their well-rested counterparts, which is similar to the reaction that depressed patients have, noted one of the study authors. "If you don't sleep, you don't have time to replenish [brain cells], the brain stops functioning well, and one of the many factors that could lead to is depression," says Matthew Edlund, M.D., director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Fla., and author of "The Power of Rest."
Spending too much time in chat rooms and on social-networking sites? A number of studies now suggest that this can be associated with depression, particularly in teens and preteens. Internet addicts may struggle with real-life human interaction and a lack of companionship, and they may have an unrealistic view of the world. Some experts even call it "Facebook depression." In a 2010 study, researchers found that about 1.2 percent of people ages 16 to 51 spent an inordinate amount of time online, and that they had a higher rate of moderate to severe depression. However, the researchers noted that it is not clear if Internet overuse leads to depression or if depressed people are more likely to use the Internet.
When something important comes to an end, like a TV show, movie, or a big home renovation, it can trigger depression in some people. In 2009, some "Avatar" fans reported feeling depressed and even suicidal because the movie's fictional world wasn't real. There was a similar reaction to the final installments of the Harry Potter movies. "People experience distress when they're watching primarily for companionship," said Emily Moyer-Gusé, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, in Columbus. With "Avatar," Moyer-Gusé suspects people were "swept up in a narrative forgetting about real life and [their] own problems."
You can endlessly debate whether city or country life is better. But research has found that people living in urban settings do have a 39 percent higher risk of mood disorders than those in rural regions. A 2011 study in the journal Nature offers an explanation for this trend: City dwellers have more activity in the part of the brain that regulates stress. And higher levels of stress could lead to psychotic disorders. Depression rates also vary by country and state. Some states have higher rates of depression and affluent nations having higher rates than low-income nations. Even altitude may play a role, with suicide risk going up with altitude.
The sheer number of options available -- whether it's face cream, breakfast cereal or appliances -- can be overwhelming. That's not a problem for shoppers who pick the first thing that meets their needs, according to some psychologists. However, some people respond to choice overload by maximizing, or exhaustively reviewing their options in the search for the very best item. Research suggests that this coping style is linked to perfectionism and depression.
Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and vegetable oils, may be associated with a greater risk of depression. A 2004 Finnish study found an association between eating less fish and depression in women, but not in men. These fatty acids regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, which could explain the link. Fish oil supplements may work too; at least one study found they helped depression in people with bipolar disorder.
Although unhappy relationships with anyone can cause depression, a 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that men who didn't get along with their siblings before age 20 were more likely to be depressed later in life than those who did. Although it's not clear what's so significant about sibling relationships (the same wasn't true for relationships with parents), researchers suggest that they could help children develop the ability to relate with peers and socialize. Regardless of the reason, too much squabbling is associated with a greater risk of developing depression before age 50.
Like any medication, the pill can have side effects. Oral contraceptives contain a synthetic version of progesterone, which studies suggest can lead to depression in some women. "The reason is still unknown," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, in New York. "It doesn't happen to everyone, but if women have a history of depression or are prone to depression, they have an increased chance of experiencing depression symptoms while taking birth control pills," Dr. Hutcherson says. "Some women just can't take the pill; that's when we start looking into alternative contraception, like a diaphragm, which doesn't contain hormones."
Depression is a side effect of many medications. For example, Accutane and its generic version (isotretinoin) are prescribed to clear up severe acne, but depression and suicidal thoughts are a potential risk for some people. Depression is a possible side effect for anxiety and insomnia drugs, including Valium and Xanax; Lopressor, prescribed to treat high blood pressure; cholesterol-lowering drugs including Lipitor; and Premarin for menopausal symptoms. Read the potential side effects when you take a new medication, and always check with your doctor to see if you might be at risk. More from Health.com: 10 Tips for Dating With Depression The Most Depressing States in the U.S. Depressing Jobs: Career Fields With Hight Rates of Depression
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