Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often referred to as winter depression, is a form of depression that cyclically occurs within fall and wintertime. This is attributed to the lack of sunlight and the colder weather that is characteristic to these seasons.
The most common causes of SAD have been linked to changes in vitamin D levels (from a lack of sunlight exposure) and changes to one’s circadian rhythm (from a shift in daylight hours) which can affect one’s production of melatonin and serotonin. One may produce more melatonin in response to the increased hours of darkness, which can lead to an influx of fatigue and sleepiness. A lack of sunlight may also reduce serotonin levels, affecting one’s mood and energy. These changes can have a domino effect and cause one to isolate themselves more or use other maladaptive coping strategies, which can further fuel symptoms of depression.
Luckily, there are ways to combat SAD. Below, is a list of strategies you can try during the colder, gloomier months.
Address Vitamin D Levels & Light Exposure
Purchase a light therapy lamp. These emit white light which mimics natural sunlight
Get your vitamin D levels tested and take a vitamin D supplement, if appropriate*. *Consult with a healthcare practitioner prior to doing so.
Consume vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, mushrooms, salmon, sardines, and liver.
Adjust your phone screen settings to a warmer, yellower tone.
Consciously increase exposure to sunlight if/when possible.
Maintain a warm body temperature by drinking warm drinks, using warming spices (ex. ginger, cayenne, turmeric, and cinnamon), and consuming warm foods (ex. soups and stews).
Address Lifestyle Habits
Get outside each day, connect with family and friends, and get adequate sleep. Embrace stress-relieving, empowering, and/or uplifting exercises such as yoga, deep breathing, painting, journaling, meditation, podcasts, music, and dance.
Mindset is everything - we recommend trying to embrace the change as best as you can, shifting your mindset to acknowledge the gifts that exist within each season to the best of your abilities. The more you resist the seasonal change, the more your mind and body will reject and fight against it. If symptoms persist or worsen, always discuss this further with your healthcare practitioner.