September 22, 2014
As the weather changes, it can start to really affect your mood. For some people, the lack of sunlight and increased time inside can spark a deeper issue than just the winter blues. A depression sparked by the season is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.
Symptoms of SAD include:
SAD can affect anyone, but it tends to be more common in women, those living in colder climates, and those who have a relative with SAD. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, as always, seek professional advice.
Experts aren’t certain exactly what causes SAD, but the biggest theory is the lack of sunlight reduces the production ofserotonin – a brain chemical that regulates mood. Sunlight also helps the body produce melatonin which helps regulate sleep cycles. What the medical and health communities have discovered is that certain therapies are helpful for the symptoms of SAD.
Because lack of sunlight is believed to cause SAD, light therapy has been shown to improve symptoms. Light therapy is the use of high intensity fluorescent lights to help regulate a body’s circadian rhythm. Sitting in front of a high-intensity lamp for 30 or more minutes a day has been shown to improve the symptoms of SAD.
Another form of light therapy is called “dawn therapy.” These lights start out dim and grow brighter to simulate a sunrise. This can trick a body into thinking the sun is rising during winter months that stay dark in the morning.
Regular exercise has a whole host of benefits that have been proven to relieve the symptoms of SAD. Cardio exercise helps the body produce serotonin – as mentioned earlier, this helps regulate mood. Getting moving is a stress reducer and stress is a big contributor to depression and SAD.
Research has shown that one hour of outdoor aerobic exercise – even if it’s overcast – is equal to two and half hours of therapy with a light lamp. Multiple studies show that exercise is as least as affective as pharmaceutical drug treatments for depression symptoms. For those looking to avoid taking drugs, exercise is a truly viable option.
Diet & Holistic Wellbeing
Just like most conditions, a change in diet can make big improvements in the symptoms of SAD. In recent years, the medical community has begun to get a deeper understanding of how the health of the gut directly affects the brain. The Gut-Brain connection has shown us that there is a strong association between the state of the gut and our overall health. Probiotics are increasingly becoming the subject of neurological research as researchers attempt to understand how our gut microbiome affects our mental health.
Setting up a healthy digestive tract starts with a healthy diet. Limiting foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and other inflammatory foods can help maintain a balanced digestive ecosystem. Good probiotic supplements with high quality strains and an effective delivery system such as an oil matrix can also help populate the gut with the right kind of bacteria, which in turn leads to a better mind-body balance.
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