Winter Sun… or lack thereof
If you’re anything like me, you miss the sun. It’s February already, and I can count on one hand how many days of sunlight we’ve had in the last month. That being said, when the sun does make a rare appearance, it seems like a small miracle! I’ve noticed friends posting on social media how happy they are that this great ball of fire has finally shown itself! It struck me yesterday how much we really miss the natural glow and warmth of the sun.
There’s a form of clinical depression that comes and goes with a seasonal pattern. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder; or SAD for short. This is known as “winter depression” and for those of us who live in the northern part of North America, it can be a very real and very debilitating illness. The worst months are December through the end of February and according to statistics, 3/4 of people who suffer from SAD are women. The most common cause for SAD is lack of sunlight and Vitamin D. The lack of sunlight can lead to a disruption in our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) which affects our melatonin (hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness) and seratonin (neurotransmitter that is a natural mood stabilizer) levels.
People suffering from SAD may experience a decrease in energy, trouble sleeping, a loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, depressive feelings, a decreased sex drive, and appetite or weight changes.
Don’t despair just yet! There are several remedies that can help get you out of the February Funk of SAD.
* Take a long walk especially when the sun is shining on those rare winter days.. studies show that one hour of sunlight is more effective on the mood, than 2&1/2 hours under artificial light.
* Take up a winter sport such as skiing or snowshoeing. We have so many ski resorts and walking trails available that spending time exercising outside will pass the winter months quickly.
* Exercise.. whether indoors or out, exercise increases blood flow, sends much needed oxygen to our organs (including the brain), and can boost your mood.
* Incorporate practices into your weekly routine such as yoga to reduce stress.
* If possible, take a vacation.. Plan a trip somewhere south where the sun is bright. Just one week of sunshine can provide relief from the symptoms of SAD.
As a Nutritionist, I can’t stress this enough!
Remember that leafy green veggies, fresh fruits and other vegetables will provide you with much needed nutrients at this time of year. Limit refined sugary foods. They will give you an initial boost, but your energy will soon plummet and so will your mood. Opt for protein-dense meals that can help increase alertness and sustain your energy longer. Lean proteins from a variety of plant and animal sources can be incorporated into your daily routine. It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day and add herbal teas into your day instead of reaching for caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
Consider Herbal remedies and Supplements:
*St. John’s Wort has been called “the blessed herb,” as its acts as a mild antidepressant. It is known to increase the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin.
*Take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for providing balance in the Nervous system and they help to increase energy levels.
*Take Vitamin C .. It’s a powerful antioxidant and helps boost immunity.
*Take Vitamin D ..Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D especially in the winter months and need to supplement. I find the liquid drops are most effective for absorption.
To good heath,