S.A.D.? Here’s What You Can Do
It’s the middle of winter. The nights are long. The days are short. And your outlook on life might be as gloomy as the weather.
Many people feel down and/or irritable this time of year, and often for no particular reason.
You could also be tired during the day…and have trouble sleeping at night.
You might crave carb-rich “comfort food”, while at the same time having zero motivation for exercise.
What we’re describing isn’t just the winter blues. It’s a condition known as “seasonal affective disorder”, or S.A.D. for short.
If this sounds like you, take heart. There are several effective ways to cope with it.
What is S.A.D.?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that affects as many as 10 million people in the U.S. every year. In fact, up to 20% of the U.S. population will experience mild symptoms.
People who suffer from S.A.D. report symptoms ranging from sleep disturbances and daytime tiredness to full-blown depression.
And while S.A.D. is common, researchers are still working to identify its root causes. But here’s what we do know:
- S.A.D. typically occurs from late fall to early spring in the northern hemisphere. This correlates with the time when daylight hours are the shortest.
- Women and young people are more likely to suffer from S.A.D. It’s also more common the further north from the equator you live.
- S.A.D. sufferers tend to have below-normal levels of the hormone serotonin (sometimes called the “feel good hormone”), and excess levels of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep).
- Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk for having seasonal affective disorder.
Exactly what triggers S.A.D. in some people but not others remains a mystery, but a lack of exposure to daily sunlight seems to be a common thread.
So…if you suffer from S.A.D., what can you do about it?
For starters, try these lifestyle adjustments:
- Take advantage of available sunlight
Research indicates that the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to isn’t as important as the intensity of that light. So take advantage of those sunny winter days and get outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If it’s too cold to go outside, try moving a chair next to the window to take better advantage of the daylight.
- Go where the sun is
May people who suffer from S.A.D. find that a midwinter vacation to a more southern location can work wonders. Apart from the increased sunlight and warmer weather, the act of planning a winter getaway might help you to focus your mind on something more positive.
- Exercise regularly
Even if you don’t feel like it, regular exercise is known to help with depression. If your motivation is low, just take baby steps until you get into a rhythm and start to feel better.
Exercise is effective at combatting depression because it causes your body to release endorphins. These feel good chemicals are responsible for the elevated mood people often experience after a run, a walk, a bike ride, or a workout at the gym. Exercise also helps to boost your serotonin levels.
- Eat the right amino acids
As mentioned above, the hormone serotonin helps to elevate mood. But to produce adequate amounts of serotonin, your body needs the amino acid tryptophan. Good dietary sources for tryptophan include poultry, eggs, seeds, and fish. Tryptophan can also be taken in supplement form.
If your S.A.D. doesn’t respond to lifestyle changes, there are other solutions that have been shown to be effective at improving the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
The most popular treatment option is light therapy. Light therapy can include:
- Broadband lights that turn on automatically in the morning to simulate the rising sun.
- Sitting in front of a light therapy lamp for about 30 minutes per day. A lamp that produces 10,000 lux seems to be most effective.
- Light visors that you can wear for shorter periods of time.
Blood tests can reveal if your S.A.D. symptoms are related to a hormone or vitamin imbalance. Seasonal affective disorder has been linked to:
- Increased melatonin
- Low cortisol
- Low serotonin
- Low vitamin D
Properly supervised hormone therapy in combination with the right supplements can go a long way toward helping you to shake seasonal affective disorder.
Think you may suffer from S.A.D.? Take the first step to a new you by scheduling a free consultation with Renew Youth. We can help you to find the treatment and lifestyle options that are right for you. To learn more, call us at 800-859-7511 or use our convenient contact form.