Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to seasonal changes, especially when winter approaches. This is why it's often called the winter blues. SAD can also kick in when there are grey skies, lack of sunlight, cold weather, it's dark indoors during the day, and even when you are expecting a warm, sunny summer and end up with a cold, grey, rainy one instead.
SAD symptoms can be low energy, moodiness, deep sadness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and hopelessness and helplessness, which are key signs of depression. Why is this?
When there's little light during daylight hours, our circadian rhythms (our biological clock) get disrupted. When it becomes dark in the evenings, our body produces the hormone melatonin, which helps us feel sleepy and keep asleep during the night. When daylight begins, melatonin production ceases, and the body starts producing serotonin to wake us, perk us up, and give us some natural highs. With dark days, melatonin production continues for more extended periods, and serotonin production weakens. Our sleep, mood, cognitive performance and more can be negatively affected.
Exposure to sunlight is a significant factor in helping people to fight off SAD. But what to do if there isn't any sun around?
We can create our own natural light, and there are also many ways to help alleviate SAD symptoms and uplift the spirits. So come along and let me help you create your SAD toolbox with some ideas, and please add to the list if you find something else that makes you feel good. Keep your list nearby as a reminder that you really can feel better when those gloomy periods weigh you down.
This is light therapy using a fluorescent light box that mimics outdoor light. It needs between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. The lower intensity gives out light similar to a slightly overcast day, and the higher power a bright, sunny day. You can place the box on a surface near to where you are reading, working or watching the television for 15-30 minutes at a time. Used first thing in the morning, it gives you lovely natural light for a positive, feel-good start to your day. Lightboxes do not cost a lot of money. Do research them and learn all about them before you make a decision.
Bach Flower Remedies
These soothe any negative emotions that upset the body's balance. Try one or two of these, taken as 2-4 drops underneath the tongue four times a day:
- Gentian - for pessimism when you know the reason for your sadness.
- Sweet Chestnut - for feelings of despair and hopelessness.
- Mustard - for sadness or gloom, like a dark cloud has descended on you.
- Wild Rose - for anxiety, depression, lethargy, no interest in anything.
Wear bright colours. And wear suitable clothes. You can't fight dark, dingy weather, but you can cosy up to it. Have nearby some colourful blankets, scarves and fluffy socks.
Breathe the fresh air, take walks, take a picnic with you.
Walk in nature
The energy that comes from grass, trees and plants uplifts the mood. Have you heard about hugging a tree? Tree energy is uplifting. Do try it.
You may not feel like exercising if you feel gloomy. Just try because exercising boosts your endorphins, which are your feel-good hormones. Exercising doesn't have to be super-energetic. Try gentle hatha yoga.
Walk after a shower of rain
You will absorb negative air ions. These are health-giving invisible air molecules that we inhale, and when they reach our bloodstream, they boost our feel-good hormone serotonin. Great for reducing stress, increasing energy and giving a wonderful sense of well-being.
Food and Supplements
Foods rich in Vitamin D, Vitamin B and Omega-3, amongst all the varied benefits that they offer, help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and uplift the spirits. Many foods contain them.
Feet up with a nice cup of tea and a good book
These are just a few ideas. Please give them a go and see the gloom disappear.
Brenda Martin is a holistic stress management therapist, nutritionist, and training provider at Come Alive School of Natural Health & Well-Being, IPHM Accredited.