Are you S.A.D.?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., resembles depression. The cause is the lack of serotonin production throughout the fall and winter seasons in many parts of the United States, and the world.
Without appropriate amounts of sunlight, your body is not able to produce the same amount of serotonin. A limited ability to be outside in nature with regular intervals of fresh air can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, despair, anxiety, lack of energy, loss of appetite or regular episodes of overeating, an increased desire to sleep, decreased energy levels, social withdrawal and a preference for being alone, a loss in previously enjoyed activities, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, and an overall sense of depression.
Try these 5 holistic ways to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
1. Move Your Body
Getting enough exercise and activity each day is important for everyone, and even more so for those suffering from S.A.D. Without taking on a marathon, try adding just 30 minutes of activity each day. Is there a yoga or pilates studio nearby you’ve been wanting to try? Do you already belong to a gym, but barely go?
Make 2014 the year you swim, participate in a group exercise class, or simply walk on the treadmill three to five times a week. You will be surprised by how much better you feel with just a little activity.
2. Eat Mindfully
When you crave a big greasy meal or a sugary dessert, ask yourself: will this food give me any helpful vitamins and nutrients? Instead, opt for something that does. Adding green vegetables and adequate fruits, while reducing sugar and fat intake, will yield great improvement in your mental wellbeing.
3. Avoid Caffeine
In our current society, coffee is an expected way to start the day. What the masses don’t know is that caffeine actually suppresses serotonin, so if you can wait at least until later in the day to consume your caffeine, you maintain a great portion of your naturally produced serotonin and elevated mood.
4. Eliminate Alcohol
At the end of a long day, a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail may sound appealing, but in the same manner as caffeine, your body is being stripped of its own “happy chemicals” when alcohol is consumed. When you’re experiencing symptoms of S.A.D., cut out all alcohol so you can start the next day with a healthier level of serotonin.
5. Create a Routine
With all these changes, be kind to yourself, but set your days and weeks up in a way that supports your success. If you generally work late on Mondays, get ample exercise, eat well, and don’t drink much caffeine or alcohol over the weekend. Go home after work, make yourself a healthy dinner, and then relax. Set up Tuesday morning or evening as your next time for exercise. Whatever your life looks like, create a schedule that you like, for the most part, and can stick to day after day.
With exercise, healthy eating, little to no caffeine or alcohol, and adherence to a routine, you will find the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder reduce and you will feel like yourself again.
Jared Friedman is a quality improvement manager who works at dual diagnosis treatment center and currently focuses on depression treatment at Sovereign Health.