The official title is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Shortened, calling it SAD is not lost on the irony. Regardless, when the winter blues hit and you are feeling a little depressed, here are the top 10 natural methods which may help to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Which one works best for you?
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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) occurs as a temporary depressive mood during the winter months. Additional symptoms may include:
- Lack of interest
- Weight gain
- Sleep issues (too little or too much)
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, anywhere from 4% to 20% of people can have mild to severe cases of SAD, with approximately 75% of these cases being women. The majority of those who are affected by SAD live in northern climates, where the winters are longer, colder, and the skies are grayer.
I’m normally a very happy person. I’ve never had any issues with depression, but I’m definitely subject to feeling a little blue in the winter. We live in Northern Virginia, where the winters are really long, cold, and gray. Trust me when I say it’s easy to want to stay in your flannel PJs, crank up the fire, drink hot chocolate and eat a vat of gluten-free and vegan macaroni and cheese. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
So how do you get out of the winter funk? These are my top 10 natural methods which may help to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Which one works best for you?
10 Natural Methods to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
Yes. I know. We always begin with food, don’t we? Winter and comfort food go together like… well… winter and comfort food. Eliminate or at least minimize any processed food filled with starchy carbs and sugar. Focus instead on seasonal and nutrient-dense citrus fruits and root vegetables. Enjoy your brain-boosting foods with omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and walnuts.
Whether it’s sweet, salty or starchy, when you get the urge for comfort food, enjoy some of my favorite recipes:
- GrandBob’s Vegetable Soup
- Ginger Pumpkin Bisque
- Sweet Potatoes
- Beet Chips
- Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Pomegranate Glaze
- Maca Matcha Chocolate Bars
It’s also important to stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink when it’s cold outside. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day.
But. It’s. Too. Cold. Outside.
I. Don’t. Feel. Like. Going. To. The. Gym.
I know. I know. But you gotta do it. Exercise is one of the best mood-boosting activities there is. It produces serotonin in your brain, and serotonin makes you happy. Here are a few ways to sneak in your exercise even on the dreariest of winter days:
- Bundle up and go for a walk
- Practice yoga in your living room
- Crank up your favorite songs and dance
- Jump on a mini-rebounder
- Snuggle in bed with your partner. And by snuggling… you know what I mean.
One of my favorite “exercise hacks” that I do when I’m having a rough day or really struggling – I place some hand weights, a kettle ball and medicine ball by the bathroom. Every time I use the bathroom, I do 20 reps of something. If you are you are properly hydrating, then you are properly eliminating and can still at least get a little bit of movement and exercise in your day.
3. Vitamin D
I remember coming home from two weeks in California feeling like a completely different person. Yes, it was a fun “working vacation,” but I was outside in the sunshine all of the time. It wasn’t until then that it hit me how important vitamin D really is. It’s called the sunshine vitamin for a reason. Between work and home and cold weather, we are rarely outside in the winter time. Well, we are rarely outside any time, but that’s a whole different topic.
Yes, you can consume your vitamin D in fatty fish, egg yolks, and supplements. But going outside, even for a few minutes every day is more beneficial, as the sun is the most efficient way to get your vitamin D. Try to soak up as much natural sunlight as humanly possible.
4. Practice Gratitude
When you wake up every morning, before you even get out of bed, think about, or write in your journal, the top 10 things that you are grateful for that day… as if they have already happened. Instead of thinking about how cold it is outside, or how blue you are, shift your focus on what you are thankful for. If you can’t think of 10, start with 3 and try to add one more each day.
5. Light Therapy
In a 2015 study, researchers analyzed a previously published study on light therapy to prevent winter depression and found that the use of bright white light or infrared light reduced the incidence of SAD compared to no light therapy at all.
I originally started using a “light box” or full spectrum LED light to help reset my circadian rhythm. Little did I know how I could actually feel a difference in my mood! Basically, you sit near a bright light for a short period of time in the morning, and do this on a daily basis. That’s it! I keep my LED light by my desk and turn it on for 30 minutes first thing in the morning while I work.
6. Manage Stress
Just like diet and exercise, managing stress is always on the list of healthy things to do to combat pretty much anything. We’ve already discussed exercise, which helps to manage stress, but here are a few other great ways to help keep calm and carry on:
- Practice deep breathing every day. Inhale through your nose from the bottom of your stomach. Count to 6 or 8 as you inhale, pause, then exhale through your mouth. Aim for 10 deep breaths a day at a minimum.
- Being more mindful and in the present
- Emotional and Spiritual – Be sure to pray, meditate, clear your energy, or whatever your religion or spiritual philosophy encourages.
- EFT Tapping
- Take an Epsom Salt bath
If you have an autoimmune condition, unchecked stress is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Poof. Get it under control before it controls you.
7. Connect with a Loved One
In our current world of communicating over text and Facebook, it seems so foreign to C-O-N-N-E-C-T. Pick up the phone and call a long-distance friend. Or meet your bestie in person for a cup of coffee or tea. Get rid of all of your distractions, and focus on connecting. Really, truly, honestly, vulnerably connecting.
Aim for one genuine connection once a week.
8. Diffuse Essential Oils
The fragrant scents of aromatherapy may help to lift your spirits. Diffuse Essential Oils all throughout your home. Some of my favorite mood-boosting Essential Oils are:
- Clary Sage
9. Find Your Happy
Captain Obvious here. What brings joy into your life? Do what makes you happy. We’ve covered a lot of activities in this article that you can do, but what do YOU like to do? What makes YOU happy? Make a list. Execute.
Don’t let the business of life push this to the bottom of the pile. Aim for at least one activity every day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Put it in your schedule like an appointment and stick to it. And enjoy it. It’s your happy time, remember!
I’ve always found journaling to be a cathartic release. Whether it was when I was going through cancer or simply the daily grinds of life, pausing for a few moments to write down my thoughts really helps to center me.
You don’t need to make it into a big thing. Keep your journal in your purse, on your desk, or by your bed and as things come up in your mind, write them down. It helps to release what you are holding on to.
You can write about what’s bothering you, what you are happy about, what you are grateful for, or pretty much anything!
And if you need to…
Seek Professional Help
If it feels like the depression is too much to handle, talk to your doctor. Even if you don’t consider yourself depressed or a depressed person, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-723-8255.
Are you Inspired?
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Love, hugs, and finding my happy.HERE. Sources: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011269.pub2/full