By Dr. Mara Davidson
Does this time of year always seem to put you in a depressive slump? Are you feeling a decreased amount of energy? Do you notice you are gaining weight? Are you experiencing feelings of agitation? Do you feel you could sleep all day or find you are oversleeping a lot? You are not alone. These cold days of winter combined with the shorter amount of daylight can give people the “winter blues”. These symptoms you are experiencing may be a part of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. SAD is a form of depression that correlates with the changing of seasons and is more commonly seen in the fall and winter months and generally occurs at the same time every year for an individual. Generally the SAD symptoms dissipate when the days lengthen and spring emerges from its annual hibernation.
But not to worry! You don’t have to wait until spring to get out of this seasonal funk. There are several strategies you can implement to relieve those SAD symptoms. First of all, let the light in. Yes, light! Phototherapy also referred to as light therapy can be purchased for use at home as a light therapy box. This box actually imitates the outdoor light and by being a mere few feet away from it has been found to assist individuals in lessening SAD symptoms. Positive effects from light therapy boxes have been seen in a matter of days! Shine some light on SAD and consider picking up a light therapy box.
Another recommendation to reverse SAD symptoms is to incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. A great deal of research has been conducted on omega-3 fatty acids helping to improve depressive symptoms. You can supplement with omega-3s, of which a common example is fish oil. But many foods contain omega-3 fatty acids as well. Fish is commonly suggested such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, but a great many other foods fall into this category as well. Foods that are less often discussed include plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids including flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, spinach, and kale.
Finally get outside and exercise! Exercise is a wonderful way to reduce associative SAD symptoms. It has been shown to help improve one’s mood and lessen stress on both the mind and body. Participating in moderate exercise such as walking or riding a bike are fantastic options. Additionally, performing these exercises outside in the daylight if possible can be an incredibly effective way to further enhance energy and decrease SAD.
Don’t let SAD make you sad, combat it! There are many incredible tools available for you! The SAD days are over–take control of your health today!