Seasonal Depression Tips: 5 Natural Ways To Beat SAD

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Fall and winter months are extremely different from the spring and summer months. Being that the days are longer in the spring and summer, you’re outside more and spending a lot of time with family and friends. The fall and winter months force us to stay indoors, which means we aren’t getting any sunlight or seeing friends as much. You may be one of those people that feel especially sad on rainy days. The feeling of walking in your rain boots with your coat zipped all the way and your hood pulled down to your nose is not a fun feeling. Sure, when you’re a kid and you get to jump in puddles it can be fun, but as an adult who’s trying to make it to an 8:30 am meeting while running with coffee in your hand, it feels like the world is ending. 

Even though the feeling of gloominess on rainy days doesn’t necessarily mean you have seasonal depression, it also doesn’t mean you don’t. Another way to refer to season depression is “season affective disorder” which abbreviated is SAD – fitting, I know. As it gets colder outside, many people begin to feel a little more sluggish than usual. You may attribute this to just not wanting to leave your warm bed, but it could mean you have SAD. Read on to learn more about season depression and how to naturally combat it. 

What Is Seasonal Depression? Signs Of Seasonal Depression

sad woman

Woman Who Is Experiencing SAD

Depression can be different for everyone, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is specifically referring to depression that was caused by the change of seasons. The signs of seasonal depression can include feeling depressed every day or most of the day, low energy levels, trouble sleeping or focusing, feeling hopeless, and thoughts of suicide. As you can see there’s a large range of SAD symptoms. Therefore, you shouldn’t ignore what you think are just the “Winter Blues.” There are even some people who have these symptoms in the warmer months. You can take steps to make sure you’re feeling good mentally and physically all year round. 

For the people who suffer from SAD specifically in the Summer, they may have more specific symptoms. Weight loss, anxiety, a poor appetite, and trouble sleeping are common for those who suffer from Spring and Summer SAD. Fall and Winter SAD differ because the symptoms are weight gain, low energy levels, and oversleeping. It’s definitely normal to have some days when you feel down, but if these feelings are beginning to happen more than they don’t then you should speak with a doctor. You should especially see a doctor if you lack the motivation to do activities that you used to enjoy.

How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Affect Sleep?

Woman sleeping.

SAD Can Affect Sleep

As with other types of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder can greatly affect your sleep. It can either make it impossible for you to fall asleep or cause you to oversleep. Everyone has a Circadian System that controls one’s alertness, sleep, body temperature, hormone production, and organ function. The system depends on a lot of sunlight. Disruptions to the circadian rhythms can affect one’s serotonin and melatonin production. That my friends, it was can cause SAD. The human body has many functions that need to work together for everything else not to shut down. 

Melatonin and serotonin affect sleep patterns. Seratonin is released during the day to make us happy and melatonin is released at night to help us fall asleep. Sunlight and vitamin D plays a part in serotonin production. Melatonin only knows to be released when enough serotonin was released during the day. Therefore a lack of sunlight means a feeling of drowsiness during the day and the inability to fall asleep at night or vice-versa if you get SAD in the summer months. You’re either getting a longer melatonin production or a delayed one. Either way, it’s bound to cause some waves in your mood, overall feeling, and especially your sleep cycle. 

Who Gets Seasonal Affective Disorder?

It is much more common for women to have SAD than men. And by much more, I mean four times more likely for women to have it. Only about four to six percent of people get depressed during the winter season. It is possible for kids and teenagers to get Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s much more common to occur in adults older than the age of twenty. On the plus side, the chance of you getting SAD decreases as you get older. If you live farther north, you’re more likely to get it. 

SAD may also run in the family. If anyone in your family has a mood disorder, you’re more likely to get seasonal depression. If you already have depression or bipolar disorder than you have a higher risk to get SAD as well. The further you live from the equator, the more common SAD gets. This is due to the different levels of sunlight. SAD can also make any current sleep problems even worse. It’s no wonder that sleep issues are one of the first signs of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder will not only mess with your sleep but it may also cause more nightmares. Even if you are able to sleep when you have SAD, the sleep may not be as restorative as it can be. You’ll most likely be in a deep sleep less and have more REM sleep, which isn’t what you want more of. 

5 Natural Ways To Combat SAD 

1. Vitamin D For Seasonal Depression

foods high in vitamin d

Foods High In Vitamin D

Since low vitamin D could be a culprit for causing SAD, vitamin D for seasonal depression may actually work. Vitamin D is a part of the production of dopamine and serotonin. These are the happy hormones that are usually low when someone is suffering from depression. SAD is very complex, so taking vitamin D tablets may not be able to completely help, but they couldn’t hurt. You can also add vitamin D rich food to your diet. Salmon, milk, and cereal are all great sources. If you are feeling depressed, you should definitely have your vitamin D levels checked by your physician. 

2. Light Therapy For Seasonal Depression

Since SAD may be caused by a lack of sunshine, there’s an option to do light therapy. Light therapy for seasonal depression is, therefore, a great option. However, you should first discuss it with your doctor since if done incorrectly, the extreme light may cause manic symptoms. A light therapy box is meant to mimic outdoor sunlight. The boxes are designed to be safe, but they aren’t regulated by the FDA. There are also light therapy boxes used for skin treatments. You don’t want that kid if you’re trying to beat SAD. Understand the instructions well before you use one. 

3. Sun Alarm Clock For Seasonal Depression

alarm clock on bed sheets.

Waking Up To Sunlight As An Alarm Clock

Sunlight directly affects our circadian rhythm. Therefore, using a sun alarm clock to fight seasonal depression could work. If you struggle waking up in the morning because of SAD, using a sun alarm clock should make you feel more alert and energized since the light will help produce cortisol. SAD alarm clocks work just like the sun rises. Your room will get brighter slowly and you won’t be bothered by any beeping or buzzing. Regulating your sleep and wake cycle may also improve your general mood, which is why it’s a great option for those suffering from SAD.

4. Aromatherapy For Seasonal Depression

Aromatherapy may be able to limit symptoms of SAD because our sense of smell has a direct relation to our memories and emotions. This is because of the nerve endings in the back of your nose stimulate the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain that’s associated with emotions and memories. The best way to practice aromatherapy is by using essential oils with a diffuser. For example, you can use lemon essential oil to boost serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes it an instant mood booster. Essential oils can also be used on the skin with a carrier oil or added to a warm bath for an all-around feel-good moment.

5. Foods To Ease Seasonal Depression

Raspberry's laid out on arm with leaves behind.

Berries reduce cortisol levels.

To beat SAD, you want to stick with foods that are high in amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been shown to assist in maintaining healthy levels of serotonin and dopamine. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that those chemicals are important for your mental well-being. When you have higher omega-3 levels, it becomes easier for serotonin to pass through cell membranes. Fish that are oily and fatty are the best source for omega-3 fatty acids. Berries are also great to ease seasonal depression because they prevent the release of cortisol, your stress hormone. 

Conclusion

You may think that you have just the ‘winter blues,’ but you could actually have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course, you want to curl up in a blanket on the couch all winter long, but that won’t get you enough sunlight to feel your best. Even though it’s normal to have some days when you feel down, it’s not normal to feel like that every day. A definite sign that you have SAD is if you lack the motivation to do activities that you used to enjoy. In this case, you should speak with your doctor.

If you have SAD, you should know that you’re not alone. Many people have it and don’t even know it. Just by reading this article, you’re one step closer to making sure you don’t need to suffer through seasonal depression. You should be able to enjoy and make the most of every season. Sometimes all it takes is a diet change and some light exposure. Just because the season changes, doesn’t mean your mood has to. 

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