During the winter many people find themselves feeling unaccountably unhappy and suffering from the “winter blues”. For some, it’s just the inability to take part in their favourite summer activities. Others can become clinically depressed due to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
SAD is believed to be caused mainly by the decreased amount of sunlight in late autumn and winter. Those who are sensitive to light and predisposed to depression are likely to suffer from it.
The ions in the air are also different in springtime than in the winter and studies have shown that those ions may also be partially responsible for triggering SAD.
People with full-blown SAD are often treated with light therapy. This requires sitting in front of a source of bright, simulated daylightlight for 30 minutes or more each day. The treatment is often quite effective. Doctors often try it before prescribing drugs.
While light box therapy is a wonderful thing, there are other ways that you can help to ward off winter depression.
If you just have a mild case of the winter blues, you may be able to keep it at bay without using a light box. Here are some things you can try.
Walking has been shown to reduce the severity of winter depression. It is especially effective when done outside in sunlight. If you don’t want to brave the elements you could try walking on a treadmill or doing some other type of exercise next to a sunny window.
Getting out of the house for any activity can also be beneficial. Cabin fever is extremely common in the winter, but unless road conditions are hazardous there is no reason that you can’t get out and have fun.
If all else fails, take a lesson from your kids. They can always find something to do outside in the snow, whether it’s building a snowman or sleigh riding.
Eating the Right Foods
A healthy diet is an important weapon in the battle against seasonal depression. Getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet will help your mind and body perform more efficiently. A diet high in caffeine, fat and sugar, on the other hand, can make things worse.
Of particular benefit to those with SAD is the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin, a chemical in the brain that depression suffers don’t have enough of, is made of tryptophan. Eating tryptophan rich foods such as fish, turkey, bananas, nuts and avocados can help boost serotonin levels.
Herbs have been used to successfully treat depression for many years – St. John’s wort is the most commonly used.
Tea made of licorice root, St. John’s wort and ginseng may be prescribed by herbalists for those with SAD. They can boost energy levels and improve mood.
The winter blues can have a detrimental effect on your life and SAD can be totally debilitating. Treating them doesn’t necessarily require drugs with dangerous side effects. Some lifestyle modifications may be all that is needed to get you back on your feet during the winter months.