What is SAD?
Colder weather means more time inside and cozy nostalgia for many of us. Holidays, pumpkin spice lattes and warm cozy sweaters. Despite this, many of us experience lower energy and symptoms of depression during the colder months, referred to as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by fall or winter major depression with spring or summer remission and affects of up 20% of people.
Why it matters
SAD is common in areas where the winter months are harsher and there is less sunlight. Women are up to 9 times most likely to experience SAD than men so it’s important for us to pay attention to our mood during seasonal changes and work to prevent or alleviate symptoms asap.
Ways to prevent SAD or winter blues
There are many contributing factors to SAD but most clinicians attribute it to the brain’s reduced rate of serotonin production and turnover during the winter season. Other reasons include the disruption of our circadian rhythms, hormonal disruptions, vitamin deficiencies and isolation due to extreme weather.
Fortunately, there are many tried and proven methods for alleviating and even preventing SAD. Here are some natural and non-invasive methods:
Light therapy boxes
Light therapy is one of the most effective and natural treatments for SAD. Using light boxes as soon as you wake up helps to reinstate your natural circadian rhythm by stimulating your hypothalamus. Many doctors recommend light therapy boxes as a first line of defense since there aren’t any side effects and the light can improve mood relatively quickly. Like many self-care techniques, light boxes should be used on a regular schedule to ensure effectiveness.
There’s no way around it, physical movement has repeatedly come up as the leading treatment for all sorts of ailments, including boosting mental health. Studies show that exercise, particularly morning outdoor exercise can be the best to combat SAD3. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with mild weather changes, bundle up and enjoy a brisk walk outside – the fresh air and surrounding nature can boost your mood immediately. If you live somewhere with extreme weather, you’ll have to get creative inside. Try some relaxing yoga stretches before bed or some gentle Tai Chi in the morning. If you’re looking for some creative indoor exercises, try some doing pet pilates with your favorite furry friend (search YouTube for some simple simple routines).
Vitamin D & Omega 3
There is extensive research that Vitamin D and Omega 3’s have major benefits for lifting your mood, reduce risks of certain cancers, and improving mental function. You can knock out both of these nutritional needs by eating more salmon or taking supplements. Unless you’re living somewhere with very little sunlight, you’ll want to run the vitamin D supplement by your doctor as it can be easy to get too much of the vitamin via supplement. As always, getting as much nutrition from whole foods is best for your body.
Make your own cozy aromatherapy scent
Many people find that aromatherapy can boost their mood and provide an overall greater sense of calm. Lavender, Bergamot & Rose have often been go-to’s for improving mood and soothing anxiety. Many also find the nostalgia associated with holiday scents, such as ginger, orange, and peppermint can also provide relief. Try adding a couple of drops to a diffuser or a bath or spray your pillow before bed to enjoy all their benefits.
These suggestions have been shown to be effective in combating some of the symptoms of SAD. If you find that your symptoms are more severe or are impacting your ability to work or interact with loved ones, you may want to consider seeing a therapist or doctor to help you come up with a different treatment plan that is more beneficial for you.