The long, dark winter months can take a toll on our emotional well-being. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that most commonly begins during the fall months and lasts throughout the winter.
Psychology Today estimates that 10 million Americans are affected by SAD every year. Even for those who may not have been formally diagnosed, it is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the population has a form of mild SAD.
While symptoms of SAD (and their severity) can vary, symptoms commonly associated with SAD – sometimes also called “the winter blues” – include:
- Decreased energy
- Feeling depressed
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Loss of motivation
- Sleeping too much or feeling constantly exhausted
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight (winter SAD frequently results in craving starchy, high-carb foods, and weight gain)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
- Avoidance of social situations
Whether or not you think you have SAD, The Mayo Clinic reminds everyone that it’s important to see a doctor “if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.”
Thankfully, there are simple things you can do to help improve your mood during the winter months. While none of these alone should be thought of as a cure, they may be ideal supportive aids to therapies and treatments recommended by a healthcare professional.
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, requires sitting or working near a light therapy box, a kind of lamp that emits a bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Make sure to purchase a light or lightbox specifically made for this purpose – there is a wide variety, and your doctor may be able to help recommend one.
A good light therapy lamp should generally have 10,000 LUX, although your doctor may recommend something different. The lightbox should be about 16-24 inches from your face during daily sessions (generally about 20-30 minutes) to get the most out of light therapy. Light therapy is often most effective when done first thing in the morning.
Even if you’re using a light therapy lamp, try to get outside for more natural light. Ten to 15 minutes is enough each day. Schedule a regular short walk with a group of friends or a neighbor. Shovel snow if possible. Go for a wintery walk in the woods. Getting exercise, fresh air, exposure to sunlight, and time with friends are important ways to support a healthy, balanced mood.
Get Light Exercise
It can be harder to exercise during the winter. But exercising releases endorphins, which helps boost energy and mood. If it’s too cold to get your heart rate up outside regularly, there are plenty of indoor options. Dance, do push-ups and jumping jacks, or try streaming a yoga or Pilates class.
Eat a Balanced Diet
The starchy carbohydrates we crave (and sometimes overindulge on) during the winter can wreak havoc on our moods, and make that sluggish, exhausted feeling worse. It’s essential to do your best to eat a balanced diet full of a variety of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats during the winter.
Along with the above tips, try these natural supplements from Nutricology, Quicksilver Scientific, and Priority One.
Seratonin – Nutricology
Seratonin from Nutricology is a patented formula to support serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate a healthy mood and sound sleep. Balancing serotonin in the body is thought to support the body’s ability to better deal with challenges such as stress. This formula also contains vitamin C, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and more.
Nanoemulsified Noto Bravi – Quicksilver Scientific
Nanoemulsified Noto Bravi from Quicksilver Scientific is a supplement formula that includes four adaptogenic botanicals that have been shown to support cognition and blood flow to the brain, two types of ginseng for greater energy and oxygen circulation, as well as a Chinese herb, horny goat weed, that increases neuro-vascularity. Altogether, this supplement formula may support learning, acuity, attention, and a healthy mood.
5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan 100 Mg – Priority One
5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan 100 Mg from Priority One is a supplement that promotes serotonin levels in the brain to support emotional well-being, healthy eating behavior, and healthy sleep.
What are your best tips for improving your mood during the winter months?