It’s the season of the big SAD, or as it’s clinically called seasonal affective disorder. Around half a million Americans will experience the big SAD each fall. But some will experience a milder case of SAD or as it’s also known as- the blues.
Have you been feeling under the weather but don’t know if it’s the big SAD? The Cleveland Clinic says to watch for changes in your mood like:
Loss of interest in usual activities
Withdrawal from social activities
Inability to concentrate
Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
A “leaden” sensation in the limbs
Increased need for sleep
Craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain.
The leading theory for SAD is the lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months. But there’ are a lot of potential factors at play. Scientists think the change in daylight disrupts our sleep patterns and in-turn our internal biological clocks. Essentially, with all the ‘bodily disruptions’ we can become susceptible to hormonal changes. And those hormonal changes can make us feel… well, pretty crappy. On top of the fact that the body will produce more melatonin (the sleepy chemical) in the darker winter months compared to sunny summer months. The limited sunlight can also push our bodies to produce less serotonin (the happy chemical.)
As November creeps upon us, some may have already noticed a shift in their energy and mood. If that’s you, then we have some great recommendations for how to cheer yourself up.
Eat To Boost Your Bodies’ Serotonin Production
Serotonin regulates mood, cognition, learning, and memory. The neurotransmitter is produced in your gut. Keep your gut healthy with a diet that supports serotonin production.
You’ll want to incorporate into your diet foods that contain Tryptophan: an essential amino acid that helps your body create serotonin. Vegetarian-friendly foods rich in Tryptophan include cheese, milk, tofu, nuts& seeds, and pineapple.
For those who eat meat, go for salmon or poultry: like turkey or chicken.
Try Light Therapy
Experts say light therapy is a great option for those with SAD, jet lag, sleep disorders, and night workers. There's a couple of things to keep in mind when using a light therapy lamp:
- You want the light to be within eyesight, hitting your skin is not effective.
- Don’t look directly into the lamp to avoid eye damage.
-Make it a part of your schedule. Try using it in the morning for the best start to your day.
"The mainstay of winter SAD treatment is light therapy, otherwise known as phototherapy. Light therapy aims to replace the missing daylight of winter by exposing you to bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Daily exposure can suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin to help you feel more awake and alert, less drowsy and melancholy. Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of SAD cases." - Help Guide
Sleeping To Much? Be Active, Don't Hibernate More!
Oversleeping doesn't cause depression. But it can exacerbate and worsen depression symptoms, Dr. Drerup says, “If someone's oversleeping, they may wake up and feel like they've missed out on the day." -Cleveland Clinic
So here's what you need to focus on to fight off seasonal sadness:
- Spend time in the sunshine to get as much natural light as possible.
- Invest in a light box (and a routine.)
- Eat a diet rich in the amino acid Tryptophan
- Get active, and definitely avoid oversleeping!