Do You Have the Winter Blues? Here’s What You Can Do to Fix It
The winter blues, winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder all refer to a real and serious disorder that affects a significant portion of the population, particularly those who live in more northern climates. If you suffer from this potentially debilitating condition, consider these scientifically proven ways to naturally treat before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
As the days become shorter and colder across the Northern hemisphere, many people start to feel gloomy. The acronym for seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is certainly appropriate. A seasonal depression sometimes referred to as the “winter blues,” or “winter depression,” it’s believed to affect between 6 and 10 percent of the population, mainly in areas prone to longer, darker winters, over the late autumn and winter months. While symptoms can vary from person to person, SAD can cause everything from general sadness, irritability and anxiety to severe depression, decreased sex drive, social withdrawal, fatigue, and overeating. (1,2)
SAD is a very real disorder. Rather than simple moodiness that can be caused by just about anything, it depends on one’s lack of exposure to natural light, hormonal state and temperatures outside. The difference between general depression and SAD is that with SAD, symptoms typically begin gradually sometime around late September before peaking during the winter months. Just before the arrival of spring, they tend to dissipate once again. Officially, one must experience this for two consecutive years to be diagnosed. That means you’ll have to suffer for quite a while before finding relief at your doctor’s office – and, that relief typically comes in the form of a prescription antidepressant, with its long list of unwanted side effects.
Fortunately, you may be able to find relief much sooner than that by utilizing these natural options for treating SAD.
Light Therapy Box
SAD occurs due to a lack of sunlight, which means that its symptoms can often be naturally relieved simply by going outdoors. Of course, the problem is that for so many people with this condition, the elements force them to be indoors, which is at least part of the reason it developed in the first place.
So what do you do? Get a light therapy box. It doesn’t require a prescription, and it emits light that mimics sunlight. All you have to do is sit in front of it for about 30 minutes every day during the gloomier months of the year. It stimulates your body’s circadian rhythms and also suppresses the natural release of melatonin, a hormone known for inducing sleepiness.
Studies have found that 60 to 80 percent of SAD sufferers will find relief using a light therapy box. Researchers at the University of Michigan Depression Center in Ann Arbor discovered that using it first thing in the morning tends to be more effective. When used later in the day, it may disrupt sleep. If you’re able, make an appointment with a healthcare provider specializing in this therapy to ensure that harmful UV rays are filtered out, and that you receive the appropriate amount of light. (3)
A dawn simulator works similar to the way the moon’s light has been shown to shape and balance menstrual cycles. It manipulates light in your bedroom by replicating the rise of the sun to help support a healthy circadian rhythm and more well-balanced hormones.
A recent Russian study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, showed that a wakeup light like a dawn simulator was just as effective as a light therapy box. In addition to helping to lift one’s mood, they’ve been found in scientific studies to improve both athletic and cognitive performance. Users have noted that they are more “gently rocked into wakefulness,” instead of being “slammed into it,” allowing one to wake up more peacefully. (4, 5, 6)
Get as Much Sunlight as You Can
For SAD sufferers, it’s crucial to take advantage of any and all sunshine that you possibly can, even if there is just a tiny ray that pokes through the clouds. Even when it’s chilly out, try to bundle up and get out there as often as possible. If you can manage an outdoor workout, all the better, as physical activity combined with sunlight is the No. 1 natural Rx available for beating SAD. If possible, aim to get out sometime around noon or soon after, when the sun is at its peak.
When you have to be indoors, let as much natural light in as possible, by keeping blinds and curtains open. According to the University of Michigan Depression Center, the brighter the better. (7)
Participate in Physical Activity on a Regular Basis
As mentioned, physical activity is an important part of winning the battle against SAD. While outdoor exercise is ideal, the most important thing is to be active on a regular basis. While it can be challenging to get started when you’re not feeling your best, once you get going, it will become much easier – and by the end, you’ll be very glad you made it through.
Regular exercise has been proven to help with traditional depression as well as SAD, because science has shown that when you’re working out, those “feel-good hormones” like serotonin are produced, which relieves symptoms such as brain fog and sadness. Research out of the Boston University School of Medicine conducted in 2004 showed that those who walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a time over a 10-day period were able to achieve a significant reduction in symptoms of depression. The experts also noted that the frequency and consistency of the workouts were what delivered the greatest effects. (8, 9)
Aromatherapy has been proven to offer many healing benefits, and when it comes to SAD, it brings positive effects to the body, mind and spirit. It works in the same way that the wonderful smell of something like a fresh-baked apple pie or the aroma of your grandfather’s cologne conjures up positive but often long-forgotten memories.
Essential oils can offer similar, lasting effects as they’re thought to stimulate areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling the limbic, immune and endocrine functions. They can also influence parts of the brain that control one’s mood and internal clock, both of which can affect the appetite as well as quality of sleep. This is backed by science too – in fact, a recent Beijing study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that essential oils from the poplar tree made in a positive difference in depressive disorders. (10)
There are multiple essential oils that are known for their mood lifting benefits, including lavender, clary sage and lemongrass. You can use them by adding a few drops to a bath where you’ll be immersed in the aromatic steam, inhale them by placing them on a tissue, or through a diffuser.
Make Some Changes to Your Eating Habits
What you eat affects both your mind and body. After all, food plays a key role when it comes to our overall health and well-being, so it’s not surprising that it can affect whether or not we feel happy or SAD, pardon the pun. One problem for SAD sufferers is that the condition itself tends to lead one to crave foods that aren’t so healthy, such as starchy carbs and sweets, which worsens the problem, creating a vicious cycle.
By changing your eating habits, you’re just about guaranteed to feel better. Avoid consuming refined carbs, such as packaged, processed foods like chips and cookies. Instead, fill your diet with lots of fresh whole fruits and vegetables, brown rice and lentils, and be sure to include more omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats can boost your serotonin levels and are found in foods like wild-caught salmon and herring, as well as hemp seed and flaxseeds.
You can also boost your body’s serotonin levels by eating foods that are rich in tryptophan, like turkey, chicken, nuts, peas, bananas, spinach and pumpkin, which help to promote a less anxious, more relaxed state of mind, making it easier to manage stress. (11)
Include Vitamin D in Your Supplement Regimen
Low levels of what’s often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” have been associated with SAD in a number of studies. In 2014, there were two studies that revealed a connection, including one report in the journal Medical Hypotheses, and another published in the journal Nutrients. The ladder found that those who took vitamin D supplements enjoyed dramatic improvements in depressive symptoms. As SAD sufferers tend to have low vitamin D levels, it’s important to ask your healthcare provider to check yours, and recommend a supplement if appropriate. (12, 13)
Take a Vacation
A vacation might be just the prescription you need for fighting against SAD symptoms, provided that getaway is to a warm, sunny destination. It’ll not only give you a break from your regular routine, which naturally helps improve one’s mood, it’ll take you to the sunshine your body is craving, and away from frigid temperatures and dark, gloomy skies. In fact, just looking forward to that holiday can make you start to feel better before you even get there, and that joyful feeling typically lasts for several weeks after your return too. The next thing you know, spring will have arrived and those depressed feelings will have disappeared.
Talk It Out
Therapy isn’t just for general depression, science has found that it can be effective for treating SAD too. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular may be even more effective than light therapy for SAD patients over the long term. During the first season of SAD, light therapy and CBT worked equally as well, but following the second season, researchers concluded CBT was the most effective treatment. (14)
Jot Down Your Thoughts and Feelings
Whether you use a journal or a laptop, getting out your thoughts and feelings by writing about them can bring positive effects to your mood and relieve other SAD symptoms too, reports the University of Michigan Depression Center. Aim to write for 20 minutes each day, or at least on most days of the week. It’s most effective just before bedtime, as it allows you to better reflect on the events of the day. (15)
Don’t Ignore SAD, Start Relieving Symptoms Now
SAD isn’t something that can be ignored. If you don’t treat it, it can significantly affect your ability to live your life to the fullest. Make the decision to take the first step to naturally treat it today so that you can enjoy your life as it was meant to be lived.
How can Coconut Oil help with SAD?
According to Psychology Today, a diet low in fats and cholesterol can put you at risk for depression. All of your organs, especially your brain, need healthy dietary fat. The key is to have good quality fats.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are abundant in Coconut Oil and more easily broken down than other forms of fats.
The exclusive combination of MCTs and antioxidants in Coconut Oil make it very effective in fighting depression, and it gives your brain the easy source of nutrient-rich fats that it needs to function properly.
Supplementation is the easiest way to get the Coconut Oil you need for brain health. Always choose a quality, organic, Coconut Oil supplement that is guaranteed, like Schwartz Bioresearch. Our Coconut Oil is organic extra virgin, unrefined, cold pressed, and gluten free. We use only quality unrefined organic coconut oil so you can get the best results possible for your health.