During winter, it can be common to feel a low mood and not as bright and breezy as the summer sunshine is here. With the longer nights and increased darker hours, we may naturally release less serotonin.
Serotonin is our feel-good neurotransmitter as it is released during daylight hours, it is activated by light exposure during the day. Where our sleepy neurotransmitter Melatonin is produced at night and is activated in our brain when it is dark and our light exposure is at its lowest.
What is SAD?
SAD is short for Seasonal Affective disorder and is a form of wintertime depression that occurs only in winter and is thought to occur due to the reduced hours of light exposure and the resulting impact on neurotransmitter production. Like most forms of depression, it may also negatively influence your appetite, mood, social life, relationships and energy levels.
It may cause you to feel like a completely different person which also can deepen the feelings of low mood and overwhelm. SAD begins in the early winter months and may persist until the early hints of spring or summer arrive once more. The longer sunshine hours help to activate and support healthy neurotransmitter release and result in SAD remission.
The leading ten signs of SAD – How to know if you have SAD?
- Low appetite, compared to your usual appetite and you may have cravings for sugar and starchy foods due to low energy levels.
- Low energy levels. If you feel tired it’s hard to just carry out your usual day-to-day tasks and commitments.
- Feeling sad and low a lot of the time, more than what you would usually.
- Feeling changes of mood, such as irritability or much more negative and hopelessness.
- Feeling tense and stressed over daily tasks and in general.
- Avoiding people and activities due to low mood, motivation and poor energy.
- Poor sleep, experiencing trouble sleeping.
- Appetite and weight changes.
- Brain fog, or less able to concentrate and think clearly.
- General aches and pains, and feelings of discomfort over the body.
It's important to get a diagnosis by a GP or healthcare professional if experiencing any of the above or depression and chronic low mood. This way they can help put together a plan for your recovery and help support you in achieving feeling well again.
How to help SAD? Finding ways to feel better
Those that live in cloudy regions, like the UK or far north or south of the equator may be more at risk of developing SAD as there is naturally less year-round sunlight. Other mood disorders, such as depression can also put you at an increased risk of SAD. A vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to SAD as its helpful in supporting a healthy mood. Fewer sunlight hours naturally reduce our vitamin D uptake and absorption in the body.
Finding a vitamin D supplement that may suit you for additional nutrient support can be of extra help in supporting normal mood and vitality. Light therapy can help SAD sufferers, using a special light lamp can help in neurotransmitter production. Spending more time outdoors is a must for SAD sufferers and can help in lessening symptoms.
What to eat? - wholefoods and omega 3
Eating a balanced diet can also be of help in supporting a healthy mood, including healthy fats, fish, algae like nori or wakame seaweeds, plant oils, such as sunflower or olive and coconut can be of help too. Alongside seeds and nuts with whole foods and fresh fruit and vegetables for extra vitamins and minerals.
Getting out with friends can act naturally boost mood and neurotransmitters like serotonin. Make sure outdoor exercise is included, with walking, running or whatever is your most preferred, to get outdoor light exposure and boost endorphins, (our feel-good hormones) for boosted mood and energy.
Helping your whole well-being
Including a couple of the above suggestions into your week can help SAD and make it more manageable until the summer sunshine comes back again. Herbs such as Passionflower or Chamomile or Hops can help you feel less stressed and help the feeling of overwhelm, alongside Withania and L-theanine, for a healthy mood and clear thinking plus sharper cognition.
Finding what suits you, is an essential part of the recovery and relief process, getting some advice from a qualified healthcare professional can help assist you on the right path and find out what may work best for you, for supporting your whole well-being not only for wintertime health but into the summer sunshine months of the year too.