Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that can affect our mood, especially during the winter months. Sometimes known as the winter blues, SAD causes depressive symptoms as a result of lack of sunshine and light. However, it can affect people during other seasons as well.
People who suffer from SAD experience symptoms such as struggling to wake up in the morning, overeating, loss of energy and irritability. They may also become less sociable, avoiding family and friends, which could result in further feelings of unhappiness and depression.
How to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD can be treated through prescribed medication, but there are natural techniques and lifestyle changes that could help lessen symptoms, such as:
Eating a balanced diet is essential for our general health and well-being. One nutrient that is particularly important is omega-3, which could help ease depressive symptoms. Omega-3 essential fatty acids can be found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, as well as soybean, flax and canola oils. Sufferers should also try to increase their intake of fruit, vegetables, protein, and water for optimal mood and energy.
Regular exercise is an effective form of treatment for SAD as it helps release ‘feel good hormones’ known as endorphins. These are also the body’s natural form of painkillers. Thirty minutes of exercise could help the brain become stimulated, leading to a release of these hormones. Sufferers should get involved in activities they enjoy as this will help to increase positive feelings.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan ) is a substance made in the body and converted into the brain chemical messenger, serotonin. Commonly known as the happy hormone, serotonin could affect our moods. This means, when the level of serotonin drops in the body, it could lead to depressive symptoms. Boosting your body’s supply of this happy hormone by taking 5-HTP supplements, made from natural plant extracts, could improve low moods associated with SAD.
Make sure you are exposed to full spectrum light each day. Sunlight is ideal, but if this is not possible, a SAD lamp or light box which mimics outdoor light could help. This is thought to cause a chemical change in the brain that helps lift our mood and eases other symptoms of SAD.
Light therapy could also be used to help adjust daily sleep cycles. SAD sufferers experiencing insomnia may wish to include 5-HTP in their diet too as the supplement could help increase the body’s natural production of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone.
Stress Management Techniques
Chronic stress could increase your risk of SAD. Regular practice of stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation could help keep depressive symptoms at bay.
If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, try incorporating these natural techniques into your daily routine all year round to minimize the risk of symptoms during winter.
Eating a well balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is still the best way to get all the nutrients your body needs. But if your diet just isn’t cutting it, consider adding a daily multivitamin to your routine.