As the days get shorter and grayer, many people experience the blues. However, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can make the symptoms even more extreme. In the majority of cases, individuals suffering from SAD feel hopeless, anxious, depressed, lethargic, and may gain weight or withdraw socially, in the fall and winter months. Reduced sunlight can throw off your circadian rhythm, disrupt melatonin levels, and cause a drop in serotonin. Fortunately, there are a variety of natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can help you stay on track:
- Acupuncture: As we mentioned in a previous post, acupuncture has proven to be an effective treatment for depression. It can have a similar affect on those with seasonal affective disorder. By harmonizing qi and hormones and leaving you with a sense of wellbeing, your mood will improve. See a fully trained, licensed acupuncturist to experience the benefits.
- Exercise: Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals, keeps your weight in check, relieves stress and anxiety, and enhances your energy and confidence. Engage in at least 30 minutes of cardio on most days per week. To further relax, take a yoga or qigong class.
- Eat Healthy: A well-rounded diet complete with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables will maintain your overall health and potentially help you battle depression. By ensuring that you receive adequate nutrients, you will increase alertness and serotonin, while giving your body long-lasting energy. Keep up with your vitamin regimen and consider talking to an expert in traditional Chinese medicine about herbal remedies.
- Let in the Light: Throw open your blinds and sit by windows to soak up as much light as possible. For those with more severe cases of SAD, opt for a light therapy box.
- Brave the Cold and Get Outside: Reconnect with nature and take full advantage of outdoor light for a much needed dose of vitamin D. Go for a walk or run, play in the snow, or simply sit on your porch. Even on cloudy days, there is a degree of natural sunlight.
- Develop a Support System: Friends, family members, and even a therapist can offer the support you need when you’re feeling down. Call someone or catch up over a cup of coffee.
- Sleep: Less sunlight can do a number on your sleep schedule. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Unwind at least an hour before bed, turn off the television and computer, and do something relaxing.