As the days get shorter and colder across the Northern hemisphere, many people start to feel downright gloomy. The acronym for seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is extremely appropriate. This seasonal depression is said to affect between 6 and 10 percent of the population over the fall and winter months. It can cause everything from general sadness to severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, overeating and social withdrawal. As with general depression, one often loses interest in things that are normally enjoyed.
Of course, escaping to a sunny, tropical location is a great way to combat SAD, but getting away for the winter, or even a short period of time may not be an option for most people. Physicians often prescribe antidepressant medications, but those also come with a long list of side effects.
Fortunately there are natural options for treating this recurrent major depressive disorder.
Light therapy is a common treatment for SAD. It requires one to sit in front of a light therapy box every morning for about a half an hour. The light mimics natural sunlight which helps to promote a chemical change in the brain to help boost the mood.
This is an effective, convenient way to alleviate sadness and other symptoms, but it’s not a true replacement for exposure to natural sunlight. The best thing you can do, unless you happen to live in a place where the sun doesn’t rise all winter long, is to get outside in the sunshine at every opportunity. Take a walk at lunchtime; even if it’s cloudy outside it will help you to take advantage of the natural daylight.
Physical activity is one of the best antidepressants there are. If you can head outdoors to exercise, all the better as you’ll be getting a dose of natural sunlight as well as increasing endorphin levels and boosting your metabolism. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and you just can’t get outside, working out at the gym or even at home to an exercise video will help.
Improve your diet
Many people find themselves craving unhealthy, high-carb snacks during the winter months. While giving in may bring a bit of quick relief, over the long term, symptoms are likely to worsen. When you’re feeling depressed, it’s more important than ever to eat nutritious foods that will naturally give your mood a boost.
Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fish like wild-caught salmon which can help in the production of serotonin. You might also consider taking supplements like fish oil or St. John’s Wort. Make sure to get the advice of a trusted health care professional if you decide to go the St. John’s Wort route.
Meditation is said to be as effective, or even more so, than antidepressants for treating depression, including SAD symptoms. Concentrating on your breathing helps remove the focus from sadness. Beginners sometimes find it easier to use a guided meditation.
By picturing a place that relaxes you, perhaps that gorgeous sun-soaked beach you’re dreaming of, it distracts the mind from worries and despair, allowing you to focus on the pleasant sights, sounds, and even smells of a place you dream of being.
Even if you can’t afford to sail away to the Caribbean every year, there are natural options that can help you make it through the winter and overcome those feelings of sadness.
-The Alternative Daily