Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder that occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year.
Most people notice SAD symptoms beginning in autumn and increasing during the winter months. These symptoms may include:
Symptoms of winter SAD often include:
As with depression, the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
If you suspect you may be suffering from SAD, here are 3 important ways to help reduce your symptoms naturally:
1. EAT THE RIGHT FOODS
Eating too many processed foods, and in particular sugar, can exacerbate some of the symptoms of SAD. This is the reason why eating the right diet is crucial when it comes to helping manage your symptoms.
Vitamin D, in particular, is an important nutrient that most people tend to be deficient in, especially during the winter months.
Vitamin D promotes the gene expression of an essential enzyme involved in the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation and depression.
Dozens of studies have shown a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in depressed patients, and some studies have shown high-dose vitamin D is helpful in decreasing some symptoms of depression.
If your intake of the following foods is low or inadequate, you may want to consider supplementation.
Studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids, in particular EPA and DHA, may play an important role in treating various types of depression.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackeral and sardines, as well as eggs, are all good sources of EPA and DHA. If you don’t eat these foods regularly, then you may want to consider supplementing your diet with fish oil.
Vitamin B is also an important nutrient that can help decrease some of the symptoms of SAD. Vitamin B, and in particular B12, plays a role in producing chemicals that affect your mood. Low levels of B12 and other B vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and folate, have been linked to depression.
Good sources of B vitamins include:
You may be reaching for carbohydrate-rich foods during the winter months to help boost your feel-good serotonin levels. However, be sure to choose foods such as oatmeal, bananas, nuts, seeds and chicken or turkey. These foods are high in tryptophan, which readily convert to serotonin without the sugar crash.
2. GET AS MUCH SUNLIGHT AS POSSIBLE
Exposure to sunlight can increase your levels of serotonin – an important hormone that helps regulate your mood. Low levels of serotonin are commonly associated with a greater risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Regular exposure to sunlight also helps to regulate your wake-sleep cycle via the production of the hormone melatonin. Low melatonin levels are not only responsible for poor sleep quality, they can also lead to oxidative stress within your brain. A lack of sleep can exacerbate some of the symptoms of SAD.
There’s also a strong correlation between a lack of sun exposure and low vitamin D levels. This is why so many people tend to be deficient in this important nutrient during the winter months.
All it takes is 15-30 minutes of sun exposure during the day to reap the amazing health benefits of the sun.
Eat your lunch outdoors instead of indoors in front of your computer. Make a point of exercising outdoors, especially in the morning, and ditch the TV on the weekends and go for a walk!
Exercise is one the best ways to reduce the symptoms of SAD by increasing levels of the feel-good neurotransmitters noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.
There is growing evidence that even moderate levels of physical activity (i.e. walking 20-30 minutes a day) can boost happiness and prevent depression.
So you don’t need to run a marathon or push your body to its limits doing a CrossFit class, simply participate in any activity that you enjoy or that engages you! Here are some examples:
Just get moving! Look for ways and opportunities to move more. For example:
There are many ways in which you can improve your mood and health naturally without resorting to medication. All it takes is a decision to make a change to your routine and daily habits!