Now that the holidays are over, much of North America is settling in for some long, dark, cold months. It's no wonder many of us are feeling low. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is depression, moodiness, and irritability related to changes in seasons - a constellation of symptoms which, for most people, start in the fall and continue through the winter.

Fortunately, there are options other than simply white-knuckling through until spring: your doctor can suggest treatment options to help address SAD. And if you're already a cannabis consumer, your habits might actually serve you well. Here's how to leverage cannabis' positive effects to get you through the winter.

1. Choose higher CBD

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Higher CBD strains have anti-anxiety and pain-fighting properties without the psychoactive effects of THC. If getting super stoned causes you anxiety and paranoia, a high-CBD, low-THC strain like ACDC delivers stress relief without actually getting you "high" (or giving you the munchies - a plus for those of us who pack on weight in winter due to SAD). The right strain provides a sense of mellow mind/body relaxation, minus the impairment.

2. Elevate your exercise routine


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Working on fitness is one of your best tools to combat SAD - and if you're having a hard time motivating yourself to get out for a run, cannabis can help. Studies by the University of Texas Health Science Center have demonstrated a spike in naturally-occurring endocannabinoids in the bloodstream after high-intensity treadmill running. Pot's anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, boredom-killing effects can help you ignore the burn, hit your goals, and keep on truckin'. Boost the calming, energizing effects by putting in a pair of headphones while you sweat: listening to music while exercising not only improves your stamina and speed, but also helps chase away the blues.

3. Replace alcohol

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In a perfect world, we wouldn't ever need drugs to feel our best. No coffee! No Asprin! But reality is much more complicated. While any substance can become a problem when used as a crutch, relying too heavily on alcohol for a temporary lift can dramatically worsen SAD symptoms in the long-term, interfering with sleep cycles, making it more difficult to wake up, and contributing to anxiety. If you're experiencing negative effects as a result of alcohol abuse, look into the research that's been done on replacing booze with cannabis, which can have far fewer harmful side effects.

4. Lights, camera, action!

OK, not everyone's got their own grow room - but if you do, you're in luck. The HID lights used in growing have light intensities and spectrums that duplicate sunlight on a beautiful summer day - perfect for treating SAD. LED, CFL, or other non-HID marijuana grow room lighting won't help you as much, because they don't generate the same sunlight intensity as HID. But it's kind of cool to think a marijuana grow room could, in theory, double as your man/woman cave during these dark, dreary months.

5. Get informed

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Knowledge is power: read up on the best strains to fight SAD and for depression in general, as well as any risks associated with using cannabis to treat mental health issues. Don't be afraid to consult with your doctor about your symptoms. As always, discontinue treatments that aren't effective, or which seem to exacerbate, rather than help, your symptoms. Happily, the warm weather will return in a few months, and with it, your sense of equilibrium. Hang in there.

h/t Big Buds, Leaflly, Mayo Clinic

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