Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressed mood that can happen during the winter when the days are shorter and darker. The lack of sunlight is thought to contribute to symptoms of SAD including loss of energy, mild depression, oversleeping, overeating and carbohydrate cravings. Fortunately there are several natural ways to combat these symptoms.
- Light therapy is one of the easiest natural ways to treat SAD. Special light boxes with up to 10,000 lux can be used to stimulate sunlight exposure and are available online. Spend 30 minutes directly facing the light box in the morning. Spending time outside every day can also greatly benefit a SAD sufferer.
- Physical activity greatly improves depression, so explore ways to be active that are also fun for you. Try qi gong, yoga, zumba, rock climbing...anything that gets your body moving and grooving. You don't need special equipment or a gym membership to be active, simply find a buddy to bundle up and brave the cold with for a walk around your neighborhood!
- Acupuncture, massage and other bodywork therapies all benefit mood disorders, including SAD. These manual therapies release endorphins, reduce stress and promote a feeling of general wellbeing.
- There are several supplements that can also improve your mood, especially vitamin D. Vitamin D is a mood-boosting, hormone-like substance our bodies produce when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but from November through February we are unable to make vitamin D in Minnesota! It is important to have your levels checked and to start a proper dose of balanced vitamin D.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, melatonin, St. John's Wort and amino acids like 5-HTP and L-tryptophan can also be helpful. As with any new supplement program, it is important to talk to your naturopathic doctor about safe and appropriate doses for you.
Jesse Haas is a co-founder of Wellness Minneapolis, Board Certified Holistic Health Coach, and a Certified Massage Therapist. She is also pursuing a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Click here to learn more about Jesse.