6 Ways to Ease Seasonal Depression
Amazing as it sounds, the natural light we receive through our eyes controls our moods, sleep, appetite, temperature and sex drive. Throughout the winter months many people travel to and from work during darkness, literally not seeing sunlight for days on end. Research has now established that a lack of sunlight can disrupt the balance of the brains chemistry, and it is believed that the combination of long dark winter nights together with the colder temperature contributes towards this depressive disorder.
As winter weather approaches, there comes an inclination to stay inside, watch movies, bake, prepare for holidays, and do all the cozy things people love to do. This time of year usually means spending more time with family and friends, but also overshadows the fact that 1 in 6 people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also known as seasonal depression.)
The Science behind SAD: During the hours of darkness the pineal gland produces a chemical called melatonin which makes us feel drowsy and signals the time for sleep. Exposure to sunlight prevents the production of melatonin whilst increasing the production of a neuro-transmitter called serotonin. When seasons change, the circadian rhythm (biological clock) in your body shifts due to the changes in daylight, and this can affect the body’s production of serotonin and hormones. It has been discovered that disruption to the body’s circadian rhythms together with a decreased production of serotonin can trigger depression.
Seasonable Depression signs:
Drop in energy level;
Tendency to oversleep;
Change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods;
Loss of libido;
Weakened immune system;
The good news is that even if you live in the coldest corners of the globe, you can combat seasonal depression with these 6 tips:
TAKE A VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENT
Many doctors believe that the lack of Vitamin D contributes to seasonal depression.
Vitamin D naturally occurs in sunlight, but in the winter months, people typically spend less time outdoors. Therefore, taking a Vitamin D supplement can be crucial to keeping a positive mood. You can also get Vitamin D in certain foods, such as portabella mushrooms. Just by eating 100g of these types of mushrooms, you will get 74% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin D.
Make sure to stock up on some supplements before the winter months hit so you can keep your spirits high even on the coldest days. Most people are deficient in vitamin D all year but the winter months are by far worse than the norm.
SPEND TIME IN NATURE
Just because the sun goes into hiding, doesn’t mean your happiness has to as well! Even if it’s cold outside, the sun still shines everyday, which means you can still get out to enjoy the beauty and positive energy of nature. Spending just thirty minutes a day outside has been proven to boost people’s moods and give them a sense of calm and peace. Nature keeps us grounded and even heals our minds and bodies. Even if you have to bundle up with three jackets and a couple leg warmers, you will still benefit greatly from a short walk in nature.
As tempting as it may be, don’t go into hibernation in the winter. You know how grouchy bears get! Keep doing outdoor activities you enjoy, such as walking, biking, skating, hiking, or running. There’s nothing like getting back to nature to disconnect from the social realm, and reconnect with the Earth and everything around you. This will bring you peace.
PRACTICE DAILY AFFIRMATIONS
Your mind is very powerful, and your thoughts can determine what type of day, week, or even year you will have. Nix the negativity! By instilling positive thoughts into your mind, you will soon start believing them. By believing them, you will then become your thoughts, which become your reality. A good day starts with good thoughts.
So, next time you feel depressed, just write down one of your favorite positive quotes, and stick it on your mirror or somewhere you will see it easily.
You can even keep a daily positive affirmations journal and/or have some quiet meditation time each day where you remind yourself of these positive thoughts. Most people forget about their own healing power when looking for a remedy for seasonal depression. Don’t discount your own ability to heal yourself; people do it everyday through the power of positive thoughts, and you can easily start your own practice of using daily affirmations to keep a positive mindset throughout winter.
To start, just wake up with the thought that your day will be amazing, and that you are an amazing person. Once you tell yourself this enough, you will start to believe it and then be it! Repeat these affirmations in the mirror, with one hand on your heart and the other on your throat.
Everyone should develop some sort of positive habit such as affirmations – our own thoughts can truly be the best medicine.
Many people suffering from seasonal depression don’t spend enough time with family or friends and isolate themselves from the outside world. While it might be hard to battle the voice in your head telling you to stay inside and forget about everyone else, spending a little time with others each day can help fight off depression. I know it can seem daunting but just get out there...you'll be surprised how proficient a little laughter is at raising your spirits.
We are social creatures, after all, and function best when we spend some quality time with others each day. Try to get people together to do something you love, such as ice skating, crafts, shopping, or something else interactive and fun. Having a group of people over to bake holiday treats or watch Christmas movies is another good idea, because you can still stay cozy at home while enjoying the company of others.
As much as you might want to stay huddled up in bed with coffee and Netflix, try thinking of ways to include others in activities that you enjoy as well. Just because the sun isn’t shining as much, doesn’t mean your inner light can’t shine! Others will also appreciate your efforts to organize a fun time that brings people together.
VOLUNTEER TO HELP OTHERS
The best gifts, especially the ones during the holidays, aren’t always the ones you get, but the ones you give. The winter months are a great time to volunteer for a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. During the colder months, more people need a place to stay to shield themselves from harsh conditions in the winter. Giving back to the community not only makes others happy, but will make you happy as well because you’re adding value to others’ lives. Giving back to the community also puts an emphasis on helping others first.
Many people suffering from seasonal depression can feel trapped in their own minds, and volunteering can take the attention off of your thoughts for awhile and onto something else that brings a sense of purpose. Volunteering may open up some new doors for your career as well. Seeing how many people are happy because of your actions might even inspire you to start your own non-profit business.
No matter what happens as a result of you choosing to volunteer your time for people in need, you will, at the very least, feel better than you did just sitting around the house. A key to keeping your spirits up in the cold winter months is staying active and doing things you enjoy. You could even start volunteering regularly after work, which will give you the opportunity to stay social and make new friends.
TRY NATURAL ESSENTIAL OILS
Conventional medicine would prescribe an anti-depressant that blocks the uptake of serotonin in the body, leaving higher levels for the brain. But often, conventional medications can have detrimental side effects. And this is where aromatherapy’s essential oils can help for depression.
Essential oils, when inhaled, head straight for the limbic system, which because of its relationship to the endocrine system allows for balanced hormone production and release. When we stimulate the hypothalamus part of the limbic system, we return it to “set point” much like a thermostat adjusting hot and cold. Among other things, the hypothalamus regulates hunger, thirst and response to pleasure and pain, which are key factors in depression. Essential oils that can assist in relieving depression are basil, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang.
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Stay Well My Friends,