Beat the Winter Blues Naturally in 7 Steps
SAD or seasonal affective disorder, affects more than 3 million people in the United States alone. Ten to twenty percent of the affected population experience recurring seasonal depression known as the “winter blues.”
There are multiple theories for the causes of SAD, including genetic factors, higher melatonin levels and poor regulation of serotonin. The last two factors, when affected can devastate the natural circadian rhythm and the sleep- wake cycle.
Now with the prevalence of digital tech use, smartphone and computer use has negative effects on melatonin and serotonin levels; such effects include increase stress, depression and fatigue. The winter blues or SAD becomes upgraded but not in the best way.
Symptoms can vary from case to case but if you are feeling a combination of the following, it is worth checking into:
Decreased desire to socialize
Lowered concentration levels
Having a hard time waking up in the morning
Sweet and processed food cravings
Lowered energy levels
The symptoms are not chronic or long-lasting in fact, after a few months, the symptoms disappear.
Our moods responds to nature. If it is warm and sunny outside, we are likely to feel cheerful and socialize with others. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there’s an autumnal overcast, we are likely to slow down and become introspective. But if you or someone you know gets down or depressed during winter but feels better in the spring, you or that someone may suffer with SAD. But, you are not alone!
If you’re feeling the blues are little more than usual this year, below are seven natural ways to help lift your spirits. Should your symptoms persist, I encourage you to visit your physician for a thorough evaluation and individualized treatment approach.
Let There Be Light
Light therapy has been effective for people suffering with SAD. It involves sitting in front of or near a light therapy box that radiates 10,000 lux of brightness for about 30 minutes. Participants are instructed to leave the eyes open but without looking directly at the light. It appears that it is optimal to do the therapy upon arising in the morning. It is also suggested to start now before the winter season commences late December.
As a side note, please check with your general physician before partaking in the therapy especially if you are taking any type of antipsychotic medication, have other mental health conditions, or have a pre-existing eye condition as there can be side effects.
Take Your Vitamin D
Low levels of Vitamin D have been long associated with mood changes and depression. Individuals living in northern climates especially in the winter are likelier to be vitamin D deficient. If you reside in these areas or if you know that your vitamin D levels are low, you may want to consider to taking a supplement daily at least 1,000 IU a day. To best determine your exact dose, consult with your physician for dosing and a possible prescription.
Even taking a light walk around the neighborhood in the morning, can give you the exercise you need to release the “reins” from SAD. In addition, a morning walk can provide that sun exposure needed to boost your attitude towards a positive note. Being proactive has had its proven track record towards treating depression and the same can be applied to SAD.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
While it may seem comforting to go for sweets and savory (often processed) foods during the winter, consuming such foods can lead you to feeling worse in the long run. Too much of these foods can depress your positive neurotransmitter levels leading to inflammation. Heal yourself with healthier choices like bountiful, bright vegetables and fruits and dark leafy greens. These bright additions are packed with antioxidants and healing power.
Bliss and Snooze
One of the major problems with SAD is the effect it has on sleep. Sleep cycles become irregular and less sleep equates to more depression. It is advised that you may want to start with a bed routine; this ensures that you can go to bed at the same time and rise at the same time in the morning.
Before bedtime, commit to relaxing in a peaceful state by incorporating a simple meditation. Mediation has been proven to improve your mood, focus and overall outlook. Also, keep any electronics and gadgets out of your bedroom space that can interfere with your meditation and beauty sleep.
Certain essential oils can favorably affect the area of our brain that is responsible for controlling our moods and our body’s internal clock. Add a few drops of calming essential oils like lavender, rose, vetiver, or bergamot to your bath to help you relax and ease tensions. In a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines, essential oils from the poplar tree like Balsam were found to aid depressive disorders.
Pack Your Bags
Traveling is so much fun; it takes your mind away from the daily mundane. You can’t help but feel your spirits lifted especially if the destination is picturesque and warmer. Taking a vacation to warmer climates can help individuals with SAD. It provides a healthy escape away from dreary overcast skies and chilly temperatures. The sheer excitement can lift any mood even weeks after you return back.
Winter has long been considered a time for going within. Use the introspective time this winter to heal yourself by using these techniques.