Seasonal Depression: It's All in Your Head
What is S.A.D. and why do so you get it?
Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in the winter, when the days become shorter, and you spend less time in the sun. Sunlight helps your body produce higher levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical in your brain that that is key in influencing your mood. Production of serotonin is turned on in the morning upon exposure to light. This is why you feel more awake during the day and get tired and sleepy when the sun goes down. The lack of sunlight causes a drop in the levels of serotonin in your brain, making you feel listless, tired and depressed. This is what causes you to get the "winter doldrums" at this time of year and not others.
How is S.A.D. treated?
Some people choose not to treat it at all. Others, who may have a history of depression year-round, choose to see a doctor for possible treatment with prescription meds, others choose to try a more natural approach. There are safe treatments-prescription and non-prescription- as well as lifestyle changes that can boost your serotonin levels and make you feel better, now, and even all year round!
Medical treatments may include:
Therapy-sometimes talking about your depression can help you to understand and deal with it in a healthier way. It may even help discover underlying issues that are making your depression worse.
Prescription medications-antidepressants can help regulate the chemicals in your brain that are responsible for depression, but are usually prescribed in more severe cases.
Lifestyle changes can bring a lot of relief:
Spend more time outdoors: The sun helps boost serotonin levels (which controls feelings of well-being) in your brain.
Eating better: Diet has a big effect on your mood. A balanced diet ensures that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins-especially B vitamins and B12 in particular-in your diet. Having deficient levels of B vitamins, vitamin C and many minerals adds can add to the problem.
Exercise: Getting active boosts the levels of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are our own natural "feel good" medicine.
Natural, Herbal Remedies can be quite effective:
The following herbal suppliments are all sold over the counter in drugstores and health food stores nationwide. The best way to decide which one is going to work the best for you, is to start one suppliment at a time. Start at a low dose and work your way up as directed by the label.
*Remember that herbal supplements are still medicine, there can be unexpected side effects. Always check with your doctor before adding these to your diet:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet. Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North American. Postpartum depression is also less common.
Pronounced "sammy", SAM-e is short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine. It's a chemical that's found naturally in the human body and is believed to increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, fruit, beans, and fortified grains. It's one of the most common vitamin deficiencies because of poor diet but also because chronic conditions and various medications such as aspirin and birth control pills can also lead to deficiency.
St. Johns Wort
This is probably one of the most discussed and available herbs around. It has nutrient value that is beneficial to the nerves and has provided a gentle alternative to Prozac as an antidepressant. *( St. Johns Wort can cause anxiety, as it increases levels of dopamine in the brain, so it is best to avoid it if there is recurring anxiety).
This herb tends to replenish the adrenals, allowing a more relaxed state. This herb should not be used for those with hypertension or high blood pressure.
Passion Flower is another calmative for the nerves, reducing anxiety and high blood pressure while encouraging sleep.
This herb assists with all types of mood problems, as well as nervous tension, anxiety, stress and insomnia.
Scullcap is another adrenal herb, but also has been very effective for nerves, high blood pressure, worry, restlessness and emotional conflict.