When the weather gets cold, the clocks go back and nights turn really dark, the outlook can sometimes seem bleak. So perhaps it’s no wonder 20% of British adults experience symptoms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the winter months, with women 40% more likely to be affected than men. If you’re partial to SAD and are battling the winter blues, here’s how to improve your mood…
Boost Vitamin D
As lower levels of vitamin D have been associated with depression and altered mood, and many individuals living in northern climates are vitamin D deficient, you may want to consider taking a daily supplement – especially during the winter months – of at least 1,000 IU (international units) a day. It’s worth getting your levels checked with your GP – if your vitamin D levels are indeed low, you’ll need to take a much higher dose. As Nosh Detox Founder Geeta Sidhu-Robb also explains, “Most people don’t know vitamin D is in fact a hormone, which has a profound effect on how we feel and our mood.”
Don’t Give In To Sugar Cravings
One of the reasons SAD sufferers crave sugar from sweets and processed foods is that carbs raise our serotonin levels quickly, giving a momentary feeling of happiness. However, this quickly passes and the ensuing sugar crash will make you feel worse than before. Research also shows that excessive amounts of sugar and not enough omega-3s can functionally change your brain and slow it down. Instead, nurture yourself with healthy foods packed with antioxidants found in dark leafy greens and colourful fruits and vegetables.
Try Light Therapy
Proven to be the most effective treatment for SAD, light therapy involves sitting in front of, or beneath, a light box that produces a very bright light. Light boxes artificially stimulate high-intensity sunlight, helping to re-set the body’s circadian rhythms. For the best results, start in the late autumn and carry on throughout the winter months on a daily basis.
On a Similar Note
Exercise offers serious benefits not only for your physical health but your mental wellbeing, too. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which combat low mood, so make an effort to work out for at least 30 minutes a few times a week to improve SAD symptoms. Exercising on a regular basis can also help ease stress and promote relaxation, which can be particularly helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep.
SAD is primarily triggered by a lack of sunlight, which can create an avalanche of hormonal problems. When sunlight enters our eyes, it activates the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good hormones. So less sunlight means our mood can easily drop. If your mood is low, try taking a 5-HPT supplement – a chemical made from the amino acid tryptophan, which the body then coverts into serotonin. Some studies go as far as suggesting 5-HTP may work as well as antidepressants, and has little to no side effects. You can’t get 5-HTP from food, so supplementation is necessary.
Change Up Your Environment
As Beauty & Go’s resident nutritionist Daisy Whitbread explains, “Your sense of smell is directly linked to the limbic system in the brain which affects emotions, so beat the winter blues with soothing smells like citrus which is uplifting, ginger and basil which are energising, or sage which is great for soothing nerves.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats found in cold water fish, raw nuts and seeds, and superfoods such as flax and hemp. Omega-3s are the building blocks for the nerves and brain and are crucial for the proper growth, development and function of brain tissue. Taking an omega-3 supplement has been proven to significantly improve mood and lower the likelihood of depression.
Set Your Internal Clock
To regulate your natural circadian rhythm, it’s crucial to create a sleep routine that has you seeing sunlight as much as possible. Try to go to sleep before 11pm, avoid caffeine for at least six hours before bed and avoid bright lights and screens late in the evening. Just five minutes of white light shuts off your melatonin production for four hours and can wreck the quality of your sleep.
From supplements to light boxes, shop our edit of the best products to beat SAD this winter...