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Natural Defenses against Season Affective Disorder

The cold of fall and winter forces many of us to retreat indoors, spending a large part of our time away from sunlight. The shorter days don’t help either. During winter months, the body conserves energy so it is natural to feel a little more sluggish, slow, and tired as the cold air moves in and darkness descends sooner. But, for some of us, this slow down leads to a form of depression that can be very hard to cope with at the time.

Those afflicted by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can expect depression, fatigue, weight gain, overeating, joint pain, oversleeping, social withdrawal, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of interest in things they enjoy. There is hope though. There are some healthy, natural ways to combat seasonal depression.

Eat well. Sugary sweets may seem to push back the depression, but the effects are short-lived. Avoid too much in the way of junk carbs, refined sugars, and processed foods. Alcohol and caffeine aren’t the answers either. Alcohol is a depressant and caffeine has the same short-lived nature as sugar. Try to eat fruits and vegetables as often as possible. Your body will get the nourishment it needs to function properly, produce the endorphins it needs, and feel normal. You still need carbs, but go for whole grains.

Get sunlight. The sun is a little farther away, but it is still there. Get a dose of sunlight on your skin each day if you can. Take a walk for twenty minutes or so around noon. Even if it’s cloudy, you will be getting fresh air and more natural light than you can find indoors. The vitamin D will do you good. For even more vitamin D, eat mushrooms.

Exercise. Working out releases endorphins to keep you happy and active. You may not be able to be as active as you might during the summer, but a jog, bike ride, or even a walk will do you wonders. Outside is best as you will be getting some sun too, but a gym works if you can’t get out.

Get full spectrum bulbs. If you are going to be stuck inside, brighten it up. Also open your blinds and curtains whenever there’s even a speck of sun to be had.

Laugh more. Laughter also releases endorphins to make you happy and healthy. Rent a comedy. Watch a funny show or video online. Hang out with friends who make you laugh. It helps more than you know.

Pick up something new. A challenging and fun hobby will push your brain out of the funk that can be a symptom of depression. It brightens your mood, keeps your mind active, releases endorphins, and improves memory.

Have a regular schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, no matter what the light is doing outside, will keep your rhythms consistent and help combat hormone imbalances.

Release stress. Stress, tension, and anxiety can make depression symptoms worse. Use meditation, acupuncture, acupressure, yoga, or massage to help you let go of stress. These can also release more endorphins to keep your mood up. When you meditate, try visualizing yourself somewhere sunny and warm.

Supplement. St John’s wort is often used to alleviate depression of any kind and it works against seasonal depression too. It doesn’t have the negative side effects that many prescription drugs carry while still elevating your mood. B vitamins are helpful too, especially niacin. Niacin is found in bran, paprika, peanuts, sundried tomatoes, and many other fruits and vegetables. Omega 3 fatty acids are important to brain function and have been shown to fight depression. Find omega 3s in seeds, nuts, whole grains, and avocados. Melatonin helps reset circadian rhythms and is found naturally in cherries and walnuts. Vitamin D is created by sunshine. Get sun when you can and find a little vitamin D in mushrooms too.

Use essential oils. Many essential oils help release tension and stress while elevating your mood. Ylang ylang, lavender, chamomile, and rosemary can all give your brain a boost, ease away stress, and make you feel happier.

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