Originally published in our Winter 2014 newsletter
It’s not hard to become disillusioned with winter after experiencing ice storms, power and heating disruptions that last for days, and extremely cold temperatures thanks to a polar vortex! “But even in the mildest of winters, some people notice that their spirits sag. They find themselves feeling moody, irritable and headachy, and have lower energy than usual.”
Medical researchers love to make up new names to label conditions, and this array of indications that occur in winter they have dubbed Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (a fitting acronym). The condition is linked to reduced levels of daylight, and is more prevalent in the northern latitudes. The good news is that even the medical researchers agree that natural treatments for it, such as light therapy, are as effective as antidepressants.
It is believed that this response to reduced light disrupts levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin. Increased light exposure is thought to raise serotonin levels and increase dopamine function (the mood enhancers), while reducing melatonin (the sleep inducer).
So increasing our exposure to bright light, both indoors and natural, especially in the morning, is an important part of the strategy for preventing or eliminating SAD.
Tips for Prevention and Treatment:
- Get out into the daylight early in the morning for as long as you can. If you can’t go outdoors, use bright lights indoors.
- Exercise enhances mood. So while you’re outdoors, walk briskly or ramp it up to your level of fitness. Or try zoomba indoors!
- Make sure your level of Vitamin D is adequate. If unsure, talk to your healthcare provider.
- If appropriate for you, supplement quality fish oil for omega 3 fats that are important for mood.
- Notice your thoughts and make sure they’re positive. If not, change the channel! Positive thoughts increase serotonin while negative thoughts decrease it.