I’m not a fan of Fall. Pumpkins bring me minimal joy…you know you can make PSL’s year-round, right? Sweaters, boots, leaves…I’ll pass. Give me sunny and 80°. Every. Day. And of course you know what happens after Fall….Winter. My least favorite word. In many parts of the world, Fall and Winter enter, and the sun exits. For me, I’ve had to say farewell to the sun…until May?June? Devastating.
Insert: SAD. Yes, “sad,” is a feeling, but in this instance,”SAD,” stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Simply put, SAD is a kind of depression that is related to the change in seasons. Due to the natural decrease in sunlight in fall and winter, this, “winter sadness,” is due to a decrease of serotonin uptake in the brain. Symptoms include:
- Being constantly tired &/or having low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Increased desire to be alone
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
Sound familiar? This is me (every year). If you’re part of the SAD club too, here are some tips to help you gain control:
Light Therapy- This is NOT going to the tanning bed! Light therapy boxes (aka Happy Lamps), are designed to filter out most of the UV light. Light Therapy tricks your body into making more serotonin, which then helps your body naturally make Vitamin D. These lamps are not expensive, and can be crucial when you’re not seeing the sun for months on end. I like to turn mine on each morning while I drink my coffee. This is the one I use:
Increase Vitamin D– Most of the world is Vitamin D deficient. Unless you’re outside 22 hours a day, naked, while on the Southern Hemisphere, you are not going to get the amount of Vitamin D your body needs. A healthy body uses 3000-5000 units of Vitamin D per day. Vitamin D can disrupt your sleep cycle, so be sure to take it in the morning. If you’re worried about the proper amount to take, consult your doctor. Never take more than 10,000 units per day.
Eat the proper foods– This includes NOT skipping meals. If you’re not fueling yourself, it’s impossible for your body to make the serotonin it needs…which is going to make you feel worse. Eat foods that contain Tryptophan (an amino acid that is found in high protein foods like turkey, beef, chicken, eggs and cheese). Tryptophan is converted in the body to 5-HTP (another amino acid) and then to serotonin. Avocados, nuts, healthy oils (coconut, avocado, macadamia, olive) and seeds are also great options.
Exercise– Exercise helps to increase our mood hormones, like dopamine and serotonin. This can be hard when it’s raining/snowing every day, but there are plenty of workouts that can be done inside!
Reduce stimulants– Caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can deplete your serotonin levels. Try to keep both caffeine and alcohol to 1-2 drinks (of each) per day. Avoid sugar as much as possible.
Essential Oils– Aromatherapy is another great way to help boost your mood. Here’s great diffuser blend to help increase energy: 2 drops each peppermint, anise, and ginger, AND 4 drops lavender.
As much as I would love to hibernate until Spring, it’s empowering to know that there are simple steps that can be taken to avoid being SAD for the next 6 months. Of course, if your feelings of depression become overwhelming, please seek help from a qualified practitioner.