Wrote by Stephanie Oswald Certified Health Coach (IIN, graduated 2014) and an Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
It's the season for… depression? A change in mood and increase in depression are very real concerns this time of year.
As we get less natural sunlight and the days shorten, our level of happiness can really take a dip. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD suitably. It is a form of depression associated with a particular season. It is a recognised mental health disorder and has some bothersome symptoms such as moodiness, excessively sleeping without feeling rested, cravings for sweets and carbs, low energy, anxiety, generally feeling down and just not feeling like your normal self. There have also been cases of people experiencing the reverse, SAD symptoms on setting through the brighter spring and summer seasons and relieving in the winter months.
The exact causes of SAD are still up for debate, though there are some theories as to its main causes. Lack of sunlight, low serotonin, high melatonin and the disruption to our natural circadian rhythm are some of the more popular suggested triggers. Those who live in climates with large changes in weather and daylight hours are at highest risk. These dramatic shifts can throw off our natural mood balance as we shift into the darker colder seasons. Some people need more light then others for normal function, and their body is affected more so by the darker season. When light hits the back of the eye, messages are passed to the part of the brain where activity, sleep, sex drive, mood and appetite are controlled. Without enough light, these functions can begin to slow down. SAD can also worsen symptoms in those already suffering from depression, so extra care should be taken for those individuals.
In many cases we can have a positive effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder with some lifestyle changes and even prevent occurrence by taking some preventative measures before the gloomy season kicks in. Land Art Vitamin D3 or D3+K2 are great supplements to take to help prevent and relieve the symptoms of SAD. This is because lack of sunlight and a Vitamin D deficiency can be a contributing factor to the development and symptoms associated. Making sure you spend some time outdoors during sunlight hours, even when it’s cold can really help lessen symptoms. There are indoor sun lamps and light therapy as well that you can use to mimic the positive effects of sunshine, this has been found to help prevent and lessen symptoms.
Stress has been found to play a role in the symptoms and severity of SAD. Yoga and spending time in nature are all wonderful stress relievers that can be utilized to help cope with and manage stress. Making sure you take care of your body by eating healthy nourishing meals and getting proper exercise, can help combat symptoms of depression. Our mood can also be affected by our gut health as the gut plays a large role in mental health. By eating nourishing meals with lots of fiber, prebiotics, healthy fats and fermented foods we can help keep our gut healthy, therefor having a positive effect on our mood. If you are really struggling with your depression and feel it is taking over your life, I suggest speaking to a professional counsellor or psychotherapist as they can help provide support and tools for coping.