6 Ways To Keep SAD Syndrome At Bay
Living in a place with minimal sunlight can easily catalyze the depressing experience of seasonal affective disorder, better known as SAD syndrome. It is not the cold that invites SAD syndrome to filter into your mind and body; scientists believe it is caused by a lack of sunlight. The absorption of light through the eyes and sun through the skin is necessary for a healthy balanced brain chemistry. Low levels of vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin can all play a role in the onset of winter depression.
People that suffer from this condition are vulnerable to fatigue, despondency, loss of pleasure, insecurity and low concentration, along with many other impeding symptoms. SAD syndrome does tend to wain at the sight of spring’s emergence; yet one may be left feeling overweight and floundering in a wake of strained relationships and mental turmoil. Preparation is the key. Six ways to keep the SAD at bay.
1) Soak up the Sun
We all need a little sun. Practicing healthy sunbathing could be the trick to holding a miserable winter at bay. Sunlight on your skin increases Vitamin D production, which helps maintain healthy levels of serotonin – our happy hormone. Vitamin D is certainly a valuable nutrient; it not only has an important role in calcium absorption, but it is the essential precursor for reproductive and stress hormones.
Your body is designed to stock up on vitamin D in summer months to sustain you through winter. This doesn’t mean baking in the sun for three hours over midday! 20-30 minutes of sunlight (without sunscreen), in the early morning or late afternoon, will consistently build up your vitamin D supply. Even in winter months grab every opportunity to get some sun on your skin, it makes a difference.
2) SAD?…Turn up the Light
Every little bit of light counts. Opening all your blinds and curtains and making a cozy winter spot by the window can help provide that extra dose of needed sunshine. Serotonin is used by the pineal gland to produce melatonin (the sleep and rhythm hormone). Taking light in through the eyes regulates the production of melatonin in the pineal gland, which in turn sets up and harmonizes the brain’s internal clock. Even if it’s cloudy outside, the light available still makes a difference; a short walk each day will help to lift your mood.
Don’t bother with your normal alarm clock in winter there is a far better way to be summoned out of deep sleep. A wake-up light mimics dawn simulation by slowly increasing in brightness. Early morning light has the most impact on balancing the body’s internal clock. On really dark days, you can top up your UV dose with a light box – created for SAD syndrome by Dr. Norman Rosentha; just 30 minutes a day is enough to fuel happy brain chemistry.
3) Ignite your Sex Life
There is nothing like a good orgasm to set you up for the day. It’s hard to get out of bed on a cold winter morning and why should you? Snuggling under the covers in a sensual lovemaking moment floods your body with much needed ‘feel good’ hormones. During an intimate connection we bath our brain in oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, this is accompanied by dopamine, our hormone of desire and reward, and after a deeply fulfilling orgasm we experience a nice surge of serotonin.
All of these hormones nourish our brain cells and playfully lift the winter blues. If depression has taken hold it is often hard to access your libido. Establishing a healthy sex life with your partner during summer months can set up the flow for delicious winter wonders.
4) Avoid the Junk
The SAD downward spiral can easily drive one to devouring sugar, caffeine and refined foods. Junk food creates inflammation in the gut and the brain. Today science has found that this inflammation could well be the root of many depressive disorders. To avoid cravings, it helps to increase your healthy oils, proteins and dark green foods.
Processed foods not only drop serotonin levels, they increase stress hormones like cortisol. Once you get on the cortisol rollercoaster, it is easy to add adrenal fatigue into the mix, creating double trouble. It’s just not worth it.
5) Serotonin Foods
Good food, good mood. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in turkey, chicken, seafood, eggs, buckwheat, bananas, nuts and seeds. If you didn’t get enough sunlight, vitamin D3 is also found in fish and fish oil supplements.
Fish is also packed with another important nutrient omega 3, also found in chia and hemp seeds. Omega 3 also has a role in serotonin and dopamine production. Vitamin B’s are also used in chemical processes within the brain; folic acid and vitamin B6 are part of the serotonin pathway and are found in foods such as dark leafy greens, avocado’s, oatmeal, and pulses.
6) Dance to Your Rhythm
The circadian body clock cycle is all about rhythm. Winter is a good time to create a routine for sleeping, eating and exercising. Exercise is a fundamental element in keeping the winter blues at bay. Find a form of movement that leaves you feeling light and uplifted. The more regular your routine, the better your circadian rhythm, which not only affects your serotonin levels, but also your sex hormones.
60 – 90% of people that suffer from SAD are women. Women that are more likely to suffer from PMS are usually more susceptible to SAD syndrome. Thankfully many of the tools that support SAD syndrome also help to relieve PMS, including a nurturing your circadian rhythm.
Historically, we spent the most part of each day outside; we ate simple healthy food, had sun-kissed skin and an active lifestyle. Two hundred years ago 75% of the western population worked outdoors, now less than 10% of us spend our day among the elements. The development of electrical lights, indoor jobs and processed foods may well have thrown our internal body clock a little off kilter. The more we understand about this syndrome, it seems clear that realigning with our environment might be all it takes to be free of the depressing winter blues.
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