This time of year used to mean Santa Claus was on his way. Now that you’re an adult, it could mean a visit from seasonal depression…
If you feel sad, sluggish, and apathetic as winter approaches, you’re not alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) aka seasonal depression is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It's most popular in the winter months, and three-quarters of people diagnosed with it are female.
SAD is believed to be due to changes in serotonin and melatonin levels. The reduced sunlight of winter results in a drop in serotonin. It's also associated with Vitamin D deficiency since most vitamin D comes from the sun.
Thankfully, there are many scientifically proven ways to keep the symptoms from wreaking havoc on your holiday season.
Here are a few helpful tips to beat the winter blues.
Focus on healthy foods
This winter, focus on foods that make you feel your best.
There is significant evidence that certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and vitamin D can fight symptoms of depression.
The amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan both have a powerful impact on mood and mental health.
Tyrosine leads to the production of dopamine and helps fight stress.
Tryptophan helps balance hormones and aids in serotonin production
Sources: Turkey, eggs, seaweed, beets, artichokes, spinach, bananas
cheese, beans, and other legumes.
Look for organic, grass-fed, or free-range sources.
Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in ‘producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions.’
Vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 both support tryptophan production, thus reducing anxiety and depression.
Dark leafy greens (turnip greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, collards, spinach), bell peppers, mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts), tomatoes, pineapple, venison, wild-caught fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs.
Evidence also shows that low folic acid is associated with depression.
Nicknamed ‘the stress antidote’, magnesium can help reduce depression and anxiety.
sources: seaweed, beans, and leafy greens
foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi or pickles contain probiotics and are good for your gut.
Phytonutrients (compounds that give fruits and vegetables their unique colors) reduce inflammation in the gut.
This winter, add some kimchi to your favorite rice bowl, sip on some kombucha or make your own pickles!
Nurture your senses with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can influence the area of the brain responsible for controlling mood.
Scent can also help regulate the body’s internal clock, which helps control sleep and appetite.
Fun fact! Essential oils from the poplar tree have been found to be particularly helpful for depression.
Check out this collection of essential oils.
Catch some rays
Waking up and getting as much sunlight as possible is a great way to improve mental wellness in the winter- and any season.
It turns out our mood is greatly affected by the timing of our body’s cortisol release. A late-shift cortisol pulse is a consequence and/or a cause of many anxiety disorders and depression.
So open those curtains, step outside onto your porch and catch some winter rays.
Getting the blood pumping is always a go-to when you’re feeling down. Whether it’s yoga, weight lifting, or cardio.
Plus, joining a weekly workout class can help you meet new people.
Cold water therapy
There’s evidence that a cold shower (even just 3 minutes) can boost your mood.
Cold water exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood flow to the brain, and increasing blood levels of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline.
According to neurobiologist, Andrew Huberman, cold exposure can cause a ‘lasting increase in dopamine and sustained elevation of mood, energy, and focus.’
Pairing a cold shower with exercise can even double the advantages.
Grab your yoga mat or a pillow and start & end your day with your favorite meditation.
Youtube has lots of guided meditations available or you can check out headspace.
Spend time with friends and family. Plan a cozy movie night, or grab your winter gear and head outdoors for a hike.
Seasonal depression can be challenging but with nutritious foods, sunlight, exercise, meditation, and time with friends, you can overcome the winter lows.
Before you know it, it’ll be spring.