Wellbeing Solutions for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Are you feeling the winter blues? As the days grow shorter and colder as we descend into the winter months it is natural for our mood and motivation to be affected. The medical name for seasonal depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Although more commonly felt in winter, the effects can also be felt in the summer months. 

What causes seasonal depression? 

Although SAD is becoming more of a talked about subject, the exact cause of SAD is unknown but according to NHS England the main theory is the lack of exposure to sunlight which can affect the part of your brain called hypothalamus which subsequently affects your serotonin levels. Other possible causes however include; increased melatonin levels, a reduction in serotonin, low levels of vitamin D and Opn4 Mutation.   

Here are some wellbeing solutions that may help reduce your SAD:

Get more light for SAD

If Seasonal Depression really is about exposure to light then it is anticipated that one of the best things you can do is expose yourself to more light. Sunlight contains natural blue light rays which initiates the release of the hormone Cortisol and helps regulate our 24hr bodily rhythms. So if the winter weather gets you down, get out and about as much as possible, especially on bright days. Making sure blinds and windows are all open on those sunny autumn/winter days. According to NHS England if your case keeps getting worse and natural light isn’t helping, you should see a GP. Light therapy is often used to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. This involves sitting in front of or beneath a light box that produces a very bright light. We have more informative wellness articles in our wellness library. 

Eat nutritiously

Mounting evidence to suggest that nutrition and depression are intricately linked via the gut-brian axis. 

The mind-body connection is so powerful. As well as getting access to as much natural light as possible, it is also important to eat well during winter. Winter blues can force us into hibernation mode, making us crave highly processed comfort foods, which often contain refined sugar. Remember to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, in addition to oily fish, nuts, seeds and whole grains, loaded with vitamins, minerals, omega-3, 6,9 and B vitamins, known to support brain health. Nutrition.org. 

Get active

Dr Andrew McCulloch; former chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, produced a report on the mental health benefits of exercise. He says: “There’s convincing evidence that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times a week is effective against depression, and anecdotal evidence that lighter exercise will have a beneficial effect, too. If you have increased risk factors (gender, family history, shift work, geographical region) to SAD, outdoor exercise will have a double benefit, because you’ll gain some daylight.” Activity is believed to change the level of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin in the brain.

If you are concerned that you are suffering from SAD find out more on the NHS website, and get in contact with your GP. 

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