LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Unlike many parts of the country where there’s cold weather and gray skies, Southern Nevada has sunshine and that is one of the main things that helps combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

The disorder affects millions of people, mostly women.

Signs of the disorder include feeling fatigued, a loss of interest in activities, and difficulty focusing.

Jacob Cooper is a New York clinical social worker who says SAD is more complicated than just having the winter blues.

“It’s not so much the cold that impacts it, but the decreased sunlight which impacts our seratonin levels which is that feel good hormone as well as our melatonin which regulates sleep patterns,” he said.

The mood disorder can start as early as the fall when daylight saving time ends and the days grow shorter into winter. Cooper says the lack of sunlight and color can alter a person’s brain chemistry leading to depression, loss of appetite, and poor sleep.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder has very much to do with our own bio neurochemistry,” Cooper said.

So how do you combat SAD and trigger healthy, happy brain activity this time of year?

Experts suggest:

  • Increase your exercise
  • Put more proteins in your diet and take away the alchohol and sugar
  • Practice meditation or yoga to reduce anxiety
  • Add light lamps which mimic sunlight and help regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythm.

“And even they make these alarm clocks with light so when you wake up — if you’re in a place without a lot of light — you’re able to have this light therapy when you wake up. So your day is off to a good intention,” Cooper said.

He also recommends holistic therapies like amethyst crystals, salt lamps, and essential oils that can lift a person’s spirits during a dark time of year.

“You know small things that we kind of put up on the bookshelf and consider woo woo. You know try it out and see the difference it might have in your life, you might be surprised.”

Cooper says the salt lamps put out negative ions which is similar to connecting with nature. He also says if the depression or sleep disruptions are serious, psychotherapy can often help or your doctor might need to prescribe medication as a last resort.