The holiday season can bring about mixed feelings, with the change in temperatures and the days getting darker earlier, it can definitely impact your mood in more ways than one.
Let’s discuss some of the useful strategies you can start implementing today to get ahead of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The SAD Reality – How can we identify it?
While it is connected to the season, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not just the winter blues or a disinterest because of the colder weather. These feelings of depression are real, you may experience sadness, moodiness, low motivation, and low energy.
In most cases, symptoms are mild at first and turn more severe as the colder and darker months progress.
Signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder may include;
- Feeling sad and depressed most of the day,
- low energy levels,
- Chronic Fatigue, Feeling easily agitated,
- Little or no motivation,
- Loss of interest in activities,
- Feeling hopeless, guilty, or worthless.
You don’t have to endure SAD and wait for the first signs of spring, and the depression to lift. It’s important to note that Seasonal Affective Disorder needs attention throughout the year to avoid or better approach it. In winter, our days become shorter and shorter, which means less sunshine. If you are living in a colder climate, chances are, you will see more clouds, rain, and snow than sunshine for a good duration of the year. In general, spending too much time indoors also limits your exposure to sunlight even if you are living in warmer parts of the world.
Sunshine is essential for your mental and physical health. When your vitamin D levels may drop, you will feel more sluggish, and you may become more sad and unmotivated. Thus it is not surprising that light therapy is one of the most powerful therapies used for seasonal affective disorder treatment and prevention. Light therapy is a great treatment option for seasonal affective disorder, however, there are other natural solutions effective in treating SAD symptoms so that you’re able to thrive all throughout the year.
The following are some practical strategies for your best defence against SAD;
Avoid SAD with a Happy Gut.
Everything starts with and is connected to your gut. If your gut is not healthy, your physical and mental health are at risk of inflammation, pain, and health issues. It is also the place where inflammation and messages can travel to your brain through the vagus nerve, stemming from your brain and connected to your intestines, stomach, and other organs. This means that your gut can affect your sleep and mental state along with your immune function and metabolism. Gut dysbiosis is one of the root causes of seasonal affective disorder.
How should you eat for SAD?
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with gut-supporting, nutrient-dense foods is VITAL – Start by removing all inflammatory foods. This includes refined sugar and grains, gluten, refined oils, deep-fried and processed foods, grain-fed meat and eggs, conventional dairy, soda and sugary drinks, any other junk food, and foods that you are sensitive to.
Focus more on foods that have healing properties, like sweet potato, Herbal teas, raw nuts, plenty of greens, bone broth, healthy fats and organic, grass-fed proteins.
Adding probiotics-rich foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir and taking probiotics is supportive for a healthy gut.- Don’t forget your prebiotics too (good food for happy gut bugs, including onion, garlic, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes).
Vitamin D deficiency is inevitable for anyone living above the 35th parallel. Optimizing levels of certain nutrients like vitamin D is a natural strategy to improve anxiety, depression, and irritability. But, the “sunshine vitamin” is in short supply when sun exposure is limited, so be conscious of the amount you’re absorbing, if there isn’t enough sunshine in your days, it is important to obtain vitamin D from other sources. The best food sources of vitamin D are egg yolks, fatty fish, liver, and grass-fed cheese and butter. Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and an excellent source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is only found in the yolk of the egg which contains around 20-40 IUs of vitamin D
Only dark, grey days ahead? – Go Out Anyway
Humans are social creatures. Our ancestors lived in extended-family groups all year long. But in our modern world, cold and grey winters can isolate us. Too much isolation is a common depression trigger and could contribute to SAD.
Find a Fun way to socialise and Get moving!
Walking, running and resistance training all help to boost serotonin levels. So choose to embrace the beauty of winter.
Take a brisk morning walk.
Pursue a winter sport, like skiing, snowshoeing, or ice skating
Go outside and play with your kids.
Take a nature hike by a river or other flowing body of water for the extra negative ion exposure
Exercise, in general, may help ward off depression and lower inflammation. If you can exercise outside, you will get the added mood-boosting benefit of sunlight
Turn on the Red light
Red light therapy is a therapeutic technique that uses red low-level wavelengths of light. This process exposes your body to low wavelength red lights that penetrate deep into your skin. Unlike ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, RLT is safe and doesn’t burn your skin. Researchers have found that one of the main benefits of red light therapy is that it helps to stimulate mitochondrial health and help your mitochondria to create more energy. Its health benefits include a reduction in pain and inflammation, improvement in skin elasticity, skin health, and skin glow, enhanced hair growth, better sleep, and more energy. Learn more about red light therapy here
Alleviate SAD with Supplements
For additional support, certain supplements may help relieve symptoms of SAD;
- CBD – While CBD oil hasn’t been studied for treating SAD specifically, evidence shows it can help reduce inflammation, treat anxiety, and help with insomnia. (CBD) from hemp oil has multiple health benefits. It’s a pain-relieving anti-inflammatory. It stimulates the calming mood-promoting neurotransmitters, GABA and serotonin, and has pain-relieving properties. Therefore, it may be helpful for stress, anxiety, sleep issues, and depression.
- St. John’s wort – This herb activates serotonin and GABA receptors. It reduces depression symptoms as well as antidepressants but with fewer side effects.
- Vitamin D3 – Consider a D3 supplement if your levels fall below 35 ng/mL. Supplementation may be necessary to increase to optimal levels. It is a good idea to test your level of vitamin D regularly to ensure you can prevent health issues associated with deficiencies.
- Fatty Acids – These are healthy fats with fantastic anti-inflammatory benefits. Take Omega-3 Or get a high-quality fish or krill oil rich in EPA and DHA. Cod Liver Oil is an excellent source of vitamin D. The vitamin D content in cod liver oil is more concentrated than any other food source. One tablespoon contains about 1,300 IUs of vitamin D
- 5-HTP – This is the best molecule for boosting serotonin levels naturally. It is easy for the body to convert 5-HTP into serotonin.
Remember that SAD is not uncommon, There is nothing wrong with you if you feel sad during the holiday season. It just means that you need to take a little extra care of yourself. Implementing a special winter self-care routine can be a lifesaver if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or even just need a mood lifter during the cold months ahead.