Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or Seasonal Depression, affects thousands of people around the world every year around the onset of fall. Shorter days, colder weather, and even daylight savings all play a role in the wellbeing of the body during the seasonal shifts. Here are a few ways to naturally help you cope with SAD as the weather continues to change.
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post are purely for informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical/psychological illnesses, diseases, or disorders. This is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed medical professional, but for informational purposes only.
1. Wake Up Earlier
As stated in a previous Wellness Wednesdays post, sunlight exposure is directly correlated to the amount of serotonin the body produces. Serotonin, also known as "the happy hormone", is responsible for a variety of bodily functions, with a primary one being the regulation of mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with emotional conditions like panic disorder and suicidal behavior.
During the colder months, as we all know, the sun is out for a much shorter period as opposed to the summer months. Getting dark at 4pm has never been it. By rising earlier in the day, you allow yourself to experience as much natural daylight as you possibly can, thereby allowing you to increase your serotonin levels through exposure to the sun. Check your weather app for sun rise/set times in your area and plan your rise/sleep schedule accordingly.
2. Full Spectrum Light
In northern areas where we tend to not get as much sunlight in the winter regardless of what time we rise, a full spectrum light comes in handy. Full spectrum lights are lights that cover the entire range of the electromagnetic spectrum, closely mimicking the light emitted from the sun while regular fluorescent light bulbs only cover a small range of the electromagnetic spectrum and therefore don't affect the body in the same way.
Full spectrum light bulbs hold almost the same amount of benefits as natural sunlight, but of course, nothing manmade can replace what exists naturally. These are the same types of light bulbs used when growing plants indoors for an example of how they differ from a typical light bulb. Having one handy on darker days can help boost your mood, improve Vitamin D processing, and lower anxiety.
You can find them on Amazon for around $30.
3. Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress by supporting the production of stress related hormones and neurotransmitters. They essentially balance the functions of the body by increasing or decreasing the activity of the system at hand dependent upon what the body needs most in that moment. They decrease stress while increasing energy levels.
Energizing adaptogens are ideal when you feel depleted, dragging, or depressed. They include herbs like ginseng and eleuthero, which lift depression, protect the liver from toxins, and a plethora of other benefits.
Balancing adaptogens are ideal when you are feeling stressed out. They include herbs like ashwagandha and schizandra which nourish and strengthen nervous system and immune function and support balanced hormone levels.
Calming adaptogens are ideal when you feel anxious. They include herbs like holy basil and gotu kola which improve feelings of hopefulness, increase mental function, and quell anxiety.
As always, CONDUCT YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE TRYING ANYTHING! Some of these herbs may interact with medications, and dosages may cause more issues if they are not correct (too much of anything is never good)!!! Talk with your doctor/herbalist before incorporating any herbs into your daily routine.
4. Serotonin Boosting Foods
Serotonin boosting foods do just that; increase the serotonin levels in the body. Eating foods that boost serotonin production will obviously have a positive effect on your mood if you suffer from SAD. Not to mention the fact that 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut. Ensuring you have balanced gut bacteria and a clean diet is crucial to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Serotonin boosting foods include:
Nuts and Seeds
Natural probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha
Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
For more information on how to eat a cleaner diet, check out our Plant Based Eating for Beginners E book.
Body Into Balance by Maria Noel Groves