Dealing with Seasonal Depression
This Sunday, Nov. 7 marks the end of Daylight Saving Time. The clocks fall back by one hour, which means fewer daylight hours and longer periods of darkness for the next several months.
For the vast majority of people, this shift is merely an annoyance. But for about 5% of the population, less sunshine and daylight can lead to a winter depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD can affect everyone, but women seem to be more susceptible than men. It is also more common in people who live further away from the equator, where there are fewer daylight hours in the winter months compared to locations closer to the equator.
How does SAD happen?
When there is less daylight and fewer opportunities for sun exposure, levels of serotonin—the brain’s “feel good” chemical—fall. This triggers a craving for carbohydrates, which are important ingredients in serotonin production. In fact, carbohydrate cravings (and resulting weight gain) are two of the most common symptoms of SAD. Others include:
- Fatigue/lack of energy
- Excessive sleep without feeling rested
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Difficulty concentrating/brain fog
Be Happy, Not SAD
Many doctors recommend antidepressants for SAD, but that’s not always the best first option. While SAD is closely linked to low serotonin levels, the good news is that feelings of sadness and fatigue dissipate in the sunnier spring and summer months.
A better and safer option is to find natural therapies to alleviate the symptoms of SAD and get back on a path to happiness:
Physical activity is one of the most effective natural remedies for depression, and it works just as well for seasonal affective disorder. Set aside 20-30 minutes every day to engage in some type of activity that brings you joy. You don’t have to burn a ton of calories or even break a sweat…just the act of moving does the trick! It can be walking, cycling, or jogging (outside when the sun is out is best), dancing, a class at your local gym…whatever strikes your fancy.
Pay extra attention to your diet.
As mentioned earlier, increased appetite and cravings for carbs are very common with SAD. Try to curb these cravings by focusing on high-protein, high-fat foods, which fill you up without packing on the pounds. (Keep in mind, these should be healthy high-fat foods like avocados, coconut, whole eggs, raw seeds and nuts, olives, etc.) You can also tame the cravings by drinking a glass of water or green tea when the pull for chips or pasta is strong. Green tea contains compounds that act as potent natural appetite suppressants.
There are a handful of nutrients that can help naturally boost levels of serotonin and alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:
Vitamin D. Getting adequate levels of this nutrient can be challenging in the winter. Why? Because vitamin D (also called “the sunshine vitamin”) is naturally produced by the body when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. The lack of sun can cause a deficiency in D…which studies show can exacerbate depression and SAD. If you want a true indication of your vitamin D level, you need to get a simple blood test. If you’re low, work with your doctor to figure out an appropriate dosage of supplemental D. If your level is normal, taking 1,000-2,000 IU (25-50 mcg) should suffice.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Like vitamin D, research has found a link between low levels of omega-3s and depression. Furthermore, many studies have shown that supplementing with omega-3s can help relieve symptoms of depression, including SAD, by supporting healthy levels of serotonin. You can get a high-quality omega-3 supplement, with the added benefit of vitamin D, in Newport Natural Health’s Omega-D3.
It's also important to supplement with Micellized Vitamin D3. Vitamin D deficiency is a highly prevalent and is present in approximately 30% to 50% of the general population. A growing body of data suggests that low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels may adversely affect many health aspects. Supplementing is a safe way to support your body through the winter months.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain that helps us relax, sleep better, and deal with stress. You can supplement with GABA (100 mg), or try L-theanine…
L-theanine. This amino acid stimulates the production of alpha waves, the brain waves associated with an awake, relaxed state. It also plays a role in the production of GABA. A good daily dose is 50 mg.
You can find L-theanine, as well as vitamin D, green tea extract, and several other herbs, in Tranquilene Total Calm. This ingredients in this supplement work together to promote the natural production of serotonin and GABA—which are essential in regulating mood and fighting seasonal depression.
This is a fantastic way to express your feelings, whether it’s gratitude and appreciation, or sadness, frustration, or anger. Make a 10-to-15–minute appointment with yourself every day to journal. Choose a safe, calming location where you can write freely, without being disturbed. Do not censor yourself. Write down all your emotions, good and bad. But…regardless of how you’re feeling in that moment, try thinking of at least five things that day that you are thankful for. Forcing yourself to focus on what is going right in your life rather than what is bringing you down can help lift your spirit and change your mindset. This amino acid stimulates the production of alpha waves, the brain waves associated with an awake, relaxed state. It also plays a role in the production of GABA. A good daily dose is 50 mg. You can find L-theanine, as well as vitamin D, green tea extract, and several other herbs, in Tranquilene Total Calm. This ingredients in this supplement work together to promote the natural production of serotonin and GABA—which are essential in regulating mood and fighting seasonal depression.
Finally, consider trying light therapy. There are a variety of bright light boxes that use broad spectrum light bulbs available online. Studies show that SAD sufferers respond really well to this type of light therapy, which mimics the sunlight we get outdoors. Another option is to use a lamp with broad-spectrum light bulbs at your desk or while reading to get an extra boost of light during the dark winter months.
As you can see, there are plenty of options if you feel that seasonal depression is bringing you down. You don’t suffer through another dreary autumn and winter, waiting impatiently for Daylight Saving Time to arrive and endless sunlight to return. With a few well-chosen supplements, a little exercise, a well-balanced diet, and some lifestyle adjustments, you can fight off the symptoms of SAD and regain happiness and positivity—with plenty of time to enjoy the upcoming holiday season!