Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone—the sun, that is. Literally. And that lack of sunshine can affect your mood. Learn ways to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) naturally.
The onset of cold weather during the fall and winter months forces most of us to retreat indoors, spending a large part of our time away from fresh air and sunlight. The shorter days don’t help either. During winter, the body naturally conserves energy so it is normal to feel a little more sluggish, slow, and tired as the chilly air moves in and the daily darkness descends a little sooner. But, for some of us, this slow down also leads into a form of depression that can be very hard to cope with until spring returns.
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 the many things they enjoy. Despite these feelings and painful symptoms, there’s always hope. Here are a few healthy, natural ways to combat seasonal depression.
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 provides a similarly short-lived boost like 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, seeds, and fruit.
The sun is a little farther away this time of year, but it’s still there. Get a good dose of sunlight on your skin each day you can manage to be outside. Take a walk for twenty minutes or so around noon with short sleeves if it isn’t too cold. Even if it’s cloudy, you will be getting fresh air and more natural light that you can find indoors. The vitamin D will do you good.
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 and your mood wonders. Outside is best, as you will be getting sun, fresh air, and natural views too, but the gym or your home works if you can’t get out. Jumping jack, jump rope, and pushups are pretty powerful exercises you can do anywhere and anytime for a huge boost to your cardiovascular and lymphatic systems.
Get full spectrum bulbs
If you are going to be stuck inside, brighten it up. There are some cool LED options that are coming down in price. Open your blinds and curtains whenever there’s even a speck of sunlight to be had.
Smiling and laughter release endorphins to make you feel happy and healthy. Rent a comedy movie. 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 is a common symptom of depression. It brightens your mood, keeps your mind active, releases endorphins, and improves memory.
Have a regular schedule
Going to sleep, eating, exercising, 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.
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.
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 D3 is created by sunshine. Get sun when you can and eat mushrooms for more vitamin D. A good vegan multivitamin with minerals, B vitamins, D3, and other essential nutrients might be in order too.
Use essential oils
Many essential oils help release tension and stress while elevating your mood. Ylang ylang, lavender, chamomile, citrus, and rosemary can all give your brain a boost, ease away stress, and make you feel happier.
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