If you find yourself getting and staying sad and lethargic when the days are shorter, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression most people associate with the reduced amount of sunshine that comes with the winter months. Since there’s less to do outside when it’s cold, it may be the perfect time to secure an emotional support animal certification for your pet.

Mental Health America says that since SAD is a type of depression, the specific condition can be tough to identify. Some symptoms that might indicate a person has SAD rather than another category of depression are:

  • Craving sugar/carbohydrates
  • Being hungry more often
  • Feeling sleepy much of the day
  • Gaining weight

It doesn’t have to be darker or colder outside for SAD to kick in. The Mayo Clinic says there’s a fall and winter SAD and a spring and summer SAD, and the two reflect different, sometimes opposite, symptoms.

An emotional service animal may help with a number of fall/winter SAD symptoms: weight gain, extreme sensitivity to rejection and difficulty getting along with others, to name a few. As discussed in the section on social anxiety disorder [internal link], an animal certified for emotional support or listed on the service animal registry can reflect your emotions and behavior, thereby indicating when you may need to try a new approach when interacting with others. Since an emotional support animal can accompany you almost everywhere, you’ll never have to face the possibility of rejection alone; you will always have a companion that’s on your side and will love you no matter what.

For spring and summer SAD, a support pet can help lift depression [internal link] and ease anxiety [internal link]. If your emotional support animal is a dog, it may also help you battle the weight gain typical of summer-onset SAD: Dogs need to be walked!

Use your support pet to give yourself some TLC. Psychology Today recommends planning activities; something you can involve your pet in will help motivate you to “get moving” and boost your mood, too.

We mentioned above that an animal can reflect your emotions and behavior. If you’re skeptical about whether or not a dog knows what mood you’re in, consider this: In January 2016, psychologists and experts in animal behavior published the results of a study that definitively stated dogs can recognize human emotions. They do it by processing more information than just what they observe; they use various senses to create an understanding of your mood.

So, before the onset of your SAD this year, check into getting your pet certified as an emotional support animal.