After spending the bulk of my life in upstate New York, I know all too well what a long harsh winter is like. Nonetheless, even here in a fairly mild part of the country, winter can bring on the blues, if not a full blown case of SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) Here are some simple steps to take to minimize the blues factor and skate through the coldest of the months with a little more of a skip in your step.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is triggered by the seasons of the year-usually the onset of winter. Symptoms usually begin in late fall or early winter and go away by summer. SAD is very likely related to changes in the amount of daylight during different times of the year. Think about it- aren’t you way happier, cheerful and positive when the sky is blue, the air is warm and you can go outside without your face freezing? 10% to 20% of the population may experience a mild form of winter-onset SAD. SAD is more common in women than in men. Not surprising, SAD is more common in northern regions, where the winter season is typically longer and more harsh.
5 strategies to beat the blues
- Light-If you live in milder climates, take advantage of the days where the sun is out, even if it’s chilly outside. Natural sunlight is very effective at combating symptoms of SAD and the mild winter blues. If you are in a region where it’s just plain gray all the time, you may have to purchase a therapy light but it will be well worth the money.A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.
Nutrition-You guessed it- high sugar, highly processed food and alcohol can make a bad thing worse, causing peaks and valleys in your blood sugar, poor sleep and fatigue. On the other hand, REAL foods, especially those high in Vitamin D and Omega 3 oils are shown to have a positive effect on depression and likely the SAD form of depression.
“Some results suggest that SAD is less common in those who consume more omega-3 fatty acids, such as Icelandic people, who eat plenty of coldwater fish. One of the largest studies ever conducted assessing omega-3s’ effectiveness in treating major depression (published in 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry) looked at 432 people with major depression. Half the participants took a high-concentration fish oil supplement (1,050 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA); the other half took a similar-looking placebo. The researchers found the omega-3 supplements effective, comparable to results with conventional antidepressants. Although this study looked at depression in general and not specifically at patients whose depression is caused by SAD, its strong results are encouraging.”
- Essential Oils– Stop in to Well Body Chiropractic and find some oils that elicit happy memories or just smell good to you. A blend of scents that you associate with happiness and pleasure can be inexpensively purchased, than applied directly to your skin or used in a diffuser in your home.. “The part of the brain that processes odors is very close to the [part that houses] emotions and memories,” explains Pamela Dalton, Ph.D., M.P.H., a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. So when you sniff something you like, you tend to breathe more deeply, your blood pressure lowers and your heart rate slows—all of which relax you. —Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H. & Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D. Check out www.wellbodychiro.com for information on the commonly used EO’s. Many, such as Lavender and Ylang Ylang are known to help sadness, depression and be uplifting.
- Exercise– For SO many reasons, exercise is one of the most effective ways to thwart the winter blues. Even a walk a day can increase endorphins, the naturally occurring “happy” hormone that is released during exercise. The effect of getting out in nature, breathing fresh air is highly effective as well. Walk with a friend or spouse and the social interaction combined with mild exercise is the perfect combination. You may want to even think about joining a class! Getting out of the house, the music, the social interaction and the physiological effects of the exercise are all wonderful components to a blues fix.
- Laughter– What better antidote to stress or the blues than laughter? Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Laughing releases physical tension, boost the immune system, releases endorphins and increases circulation! Instead of the blow-it-up guts and gore movie, rent a comedy.
Many cases of the winter blues start in September and continue through early Summer! If you or a loved one trudge you way through this season, it’s not too late to stop it in it’s tracks. For more information on nutrition, exercise or essential oil therapy, please contact Dr. Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 704-577-7458