For increasing numbers of us, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a spectre on the horizon – if it has not caught up with us already. Many people already suffer from SAD – which is a strong varient of the ‘Winter Blues’ – and it is this time of year that its effects can be most prominent. With this in mind it is important to know that there are many options available for treatment of SAD, including treatment without medication. If you think that you suffer from SAD, taking the steps below can reduce your symptoms and help you to see the bright side once more.
Increase your light intake
The reduction in our light-levels brings about a decrease in seratonin, a chemical secreted from our Central Nervous System that helps to boost our mood. The ensuing feelings of sadness are therefore attributed to a loss of light. Taking a walk during the brightest part of the day for at least thirty minutes, or using devices such as sunrise alarm clocks for a similar duration can help to relieve these symptoms.
The feeling of satisfaction that we experience after exercise is also down to serotonin. Scientific studies have shown that serotonin levels are raised for a number of days post-exercise, so regular exercise can keep serotonin levels up. This is the beginning of a positive circle, as this feel-good factor that comes with regular exercise continues with the health benefits that physical activity brings.
A decrease in serotonin can harbour a temptation to eat ‘comfort foods’, which can often be higher in sugar, fat and carbohydrates. It is imperative that you eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible, and as wide a variety of colours as is practicable to maximize your intake of antioxidants and vitamins. Spices such as fenugreek, fennel, pepper and mustard seeds are also an excellent source of vital minerals and can help boost the immune system. Keeping warm and healthy also helps guard against infection. As we get sick, we naturally feel worse, both physically and mentally.
There are many forms of stress, which can hamper the production of serotonin. Waking early and working late – traveling to and from in the darkness – heaps unseen pressure on both mind and spirit. Time to yourself is one thing that many of us lack, so during these long, dark months we must make every effort to give ourselves a chance to recouperate. This can be from a short walk, a bath, reading a good book or simply listening to your favourite music, anything that allows you to forget – albeit momentarily – about stresses of work and worsening weather.
The above are simple, practical methods with which to defend against SAD. Slight changes in lifestyle can bring about the most momentous change in wellbeing and these lifestyle changes are not necessarily exclusive to sufferers of SAD. More light, a better diet, regular exercise and time to relax are things that each of us can benefit from to give ourselves a better mind, a better heart and a better life.