Lack of Light Bringing You Down? Holistic Ways to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Feel Better Now
Most of us have experienced some mild winter blues at some point or another. Days are shorter, we just want to be inside, and we sleep more.
After all, everything slows down in the winter. Nature shows us it’s a time for rest and renewal. We realize that keeping the high energy and activity level of summer all year long would lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
But for some people, the change of seasons brings more than just the winter blues.
If you find that every year, starting around November, you experience heavier depression, you might be suffering from the common condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This type of depression tends to come back every year, but don’t despair: there are holistic ways you can feel better, now.
Read on to learn what SAD is, what causes it and what symptoms arise, plus how to fight it with a wholesome approach, the holistic way.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is influenced by the seasons. Most people who suffer from SAD find that their symptoms tend to appear in the fall and last throughout the winter until the beginning of spring. Sad is also called “winter depression”.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of SAD include:
- Less energy
- Lack of motivation to start or to complete tasks
- Sleeping issues (over sleeping or insomnia/lack of sleep)
- Food cravings (usually carbs, sweets, and the like)
- Weight gain or feelings of sluggishness
- Anxiety, depression, moodiness
What causes SAD?
Like the name suggests, SAD is a type of seasonal depression, which means it is caused by the change in seasons, usually from fall to winter.
Women are more at risk of suffering from the condition, but the reason why is unclear.
Some people believe that an underlying vitamin D deficiency might put you more at risk.
You’re also more at risk of suffering from SAD if it runs in your family.
What happens when you have SAD?
When you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, the lack of light might put your biological clock out of whack. What does this mean? It means your sleep-wake cycle, along with other circadian rhythms, might be disrupted. Cue the lethargy, feelings of tiredness, and sleep issues.
This in turn can affect melatonin and serotonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us sleepy at night, but in periods of lengthy darkness (aka short, dark winter days), it might be produced in too high amounts – making you sleepy at the wrong time, like the middle of the afternoon.
Then there’s serotonin, the “happy” hormone, which reduced sunlight might cause to plummet. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and appetite, and low serotonin levels are usually associated with depression.
How to fight SAD now
Gentle, regular exercise is a time-tested depression buster, and it works its magic on SAD, too. Try walking, cycling, some types of yoga, or dancing. Find an activity you can do several times a week, even if it’s just for 20 minutes at a time. Research shows that consistency and frequency is better than intensity when it comes to using exercise to relieve symptoms of depression.
Getting out there is a tremendous help in fighting SAD. Even if it’s cloudy out, you’ll still benefit from the light outdoors. For even better depression-busting, try heading outside in the mornings.
Focus on diet
The brain needs certain key nutrients in order to manufacture serotonin and other important neurotransmitters.
So what should you eat to help your body fight SAD? Focus on getting plenty of B-vitamins from cereals and whole grains, as well as enough protein. Go easy on the sweets.
And one more thing: add traditionally fermented foods and beverages to your diet (think sauerkraut and kimchi, along with kombucha and kefir). Why? Because these probiotic-rich foods help you assimilate and utilize nutrients more effectively, which means more nutrients are available for brain health and happy vibes.
Periods of high physical or emotional stress cause the body to produce more adrenaline and cortisol, which further deplete serotonin levels. Learning to chill out and relax and restore is essential in the fight against SAD.
Need an easy tip? Try treating yourself to a nice long bath a few times a week. Soaking in warm water does wonder for the senses. Take it up a notch and add a handful of our mineral-rich, relaxing soak (find it here).
Look into herbal remedies
Herbal support is a key component of holistic wellness. To fight SAD, look into St John’s Wort for its mood-balancing properties, and Ashwagandha root for its benefits in re-establishing a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Seasonal depression is a common condition that affects a lot of people. While feeling down sometimes is normal during the dark, cold winter months, feeling depressed constantly isn’t something you should accept as your new normal. With these easy and time-tested tips, you might be able to prevent SAD altogether, or at least lessen the symptoms so you can enjoy winter for what it is: a time to rest and renew.