Yes, the weather is still nice and the sun is shining most days. However, if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), it is important that you begin your “Go away S.A.D.” routine today so you are armed and ready for when winter hits!
S.A.D. is real and affects many. Sometimes called the “winter blues”, it leaves people with:
- Low energy
- Loss of energy
- Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
The lack of light in wintertime can lower levels of serotonin.
Serotonin production increases with light. Therefore, the lack of light in wintertime can result in lower levels of serotonin for many people. Serotonin is the mood-enhancing chemical that regulates hunger and the feeling of well-being, therefore if it’s low, your well-being is compromised.
There are things you can do to boost your energy and happiness levels during the dark gloomy months of winter.
- Get outside ~ especially when the sun is shining. I realize that in the winter months is can be dark when you leave for work and dark when you get home. So, if the sun is shining during the day, go for a walk during your break or lunchtime.
- Stay involved with your social circle. I know it’s easy to get home at the end of the day and just stay there, but make a point ~ let’s say once a week ~ to see a friend! Meet for a tea, go to a movie, meet for dinner, go for walk, visit a museum, find a winter farmer’s market, book a manicure, attend a workshop, etc. It’s important to stay connected to people.
- Taking a B Complex vitamin is essential for preventing depression and anxiety.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar gives your blood glucose level sudden ups and downs, which causes fatigue, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration and anxiety ~ all the things we are trying to avoid.
- Vitamin D. Because you are exposed to less light, it’s a good idea to supplement your body’s production with vitamin D during the winter months.
- Exercise. I know how difficult it can be to fit in exercise when you work full time, but this is important. Find something that interests you ~ Zumba, badminton, pilates, yoga, boot-camp, salsa dancing, rock-climbing, whatever! Register yourself for an activity that will take you through the winter months. Not only will you be getting out of the house and exercising, but you’ll be socializing too!
- Fish oil supplement. Recent studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can be helpful in maintaining a healthy emotional balance.
- Supplement with 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). 5HTP raises serotonin levels. 5HTP need only be taken for a short period, to bump up serotonin levels, which will then stay elevated. 5HTP should be taken for at least 4-6 weeks to reach full effectiveness. That’s why it’s important to begin your S.A.D. regime now.
- Alcohol interferes with serotonin production. It lowers tryptophan levels in the body, therefore lowers the body’s serotonin production. So it’ best to limit or if possible avoid alcohol during the S.A.D. months. Also, alcohol interferes with normal sleeping patterns, which you sure don’t want.
- Keep your bedroom dark at night. Melatonin has sedative properties and helps to reduce anxiety and panic disorders. Melatonin is the hormone of the pineal which is produced only at night. Production stops when the eyes are exposed to light. So make sure your bedroom is dark when you sleep.
- Increase your serotonin with food. Foods rich in tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates and vitamin B6 play crucial roles in serotonin development.
- Tryptophan is one of the 10 essential amino acids and is necessary for serotonin production. Foods rich in tryptophan include: Seeds & Nuts (pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, almonds, walnuts), Legumes (lentils, kidney beans, black beans, split peas), Poultry (chicken, turkey), Seafood (halibut, salmon, sardines, cod).
- Omega-3 fatty acids increase serotonin. Foods rich in omega-3 include: ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, walnuts, sardines, salmon,
- Complex carbohydrates play a role in serotonin production. Foods include: Fruits & Vegetables (potatoes, beans, carrots, cucumber, asparagus, apples, zucchini, strawberries, yams,), Whole Grains (wild rice, barley, spelt, oats, millet, buckwheat), Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans)
- Vitamin B6 influences the production of tryptophan. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include: Vegetables (bell peppers, spinach, baked potatoes (skin included), green peas, yams, broccoli, asparagus), Nuts & Seeds (sunflower seeds, cashews, hazelnuts), Fish (Cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna, snapper), Meat (chicken, turkey).
I wish for you to have a S.A.D. free winter.