Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal rhythm to it.
Most people with SAD have symptoms that begin in the early autumn and persist through the winter, until springtime. In more rare instances, some can suffer from SAD in the summer season and improve during winter.
Many people often blow off the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder as the “winter blues” - but it can be a lot more than that.If you can’t quickly change your mood and get out of it, then it’s most likely SAD.
While SAD is relatively easily remedied, it’s important that you get ahead of the curve with treatment.Meaning, as soon as the sun starts to shift to shorter days (September) this is when certain therapies should be instituted, before full-on depression begins.
Symptoms of SAD
If you feel a relatively sudden shift (downward) in mood, beginning as early as September and resolving in the springtime, then you may be affected by SAD.You may also notice that low mood gets progressively worse through the winter months and then begins to improve quickly as the days get to a certain (longer) length.
Some common signs and symptoms include:
Low energy, both mental and physical
Overcome with excessive desire to sleep
Cravings for simple carbs and sugary foods
Lack of focus
Lack of interest in normally fun activities
Feeling down or sad most days
Hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
Most notably, people start to notice these symptoms in the autumn:
Poor workout performance
Common signs of Summer SAD may include:
Lack of appetite
Causes of SAD
The true cause of SAD isn’t well understood, but scientists are learning more about how the following can induce seasonal affective disorder:
Melatonin - production of this “sleep” hormone can be altered by the change in seasons and how much light we’re exposed to. When melatonin levels become imbalanced, sleep (either too much or too little) can be disrupted.
Circadian rhythm refers to our biological clock - as we’re exposed to less sunlight this imbalances our internal clock. As we’ve adapted to certain levels of light through the day and this begins to change, our biological clocks struggle to catch up as winter draws in.
Serotonin - a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood; reduced amounts of sunlight can lead to lower levels of this brain chemical, negatively affecting mood.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Natural medicines are ideal for SAD, since standard medical therapy can be a (typically) overpowered treatment for this.
Sun and artificial light exposure. The following are specific actions you can take to enhance your body’s exposure to the natural light rhythms we depend on for healthy mood, sleep and neurohormone balance.Credit to Dr. Andrew Huberman for this information.
Expose yourself to morning sunlight for 2-10 minutes. The trick here is to be out in the morning sunlight, first thing. Now, for many of us we’re up before the sun comes up - but if possible, get outside and expose yourself to the morning sun. NO, this never means looking directly at the sun, but getting that sunlight in your eyes (no sunglasses, and not through a window).
Keep your workplace well-lit. Bright overhead lights (or even better natural sunlight) during the working hours helps activate a number of mechanisms of wakefulness and ensures healthy levels of dopamine and other neurohormones.
Expose yourself to the setting sun. Same procedure as the morning ritual. Get outside and get that setting sunlight in your eyes (DO NOT stare directly as the sun).
Once the sun begins to set, dim the lights in your surroundings. Continual exposure to bright lights into the evening will disrupt normal patterns of serotonin, dopamine and especially melatonin.
Vitamin D As exposure to sunlight on the skin diminishes, so do vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, and a number of other conditions. Stepping up supplementation of vitamin D in Autumn will help ward off SAD.
5-HTP 5-hydroxytryptophan is a naturally-occurring amino acid that serves as a precursor to the mood-influencing hormone serotonin. Supplementing with 5-HTP can support declining serotonin levels.
Mood Support Is our go-to combination product for mild to moderate depression.It contains several of the most well researched mood supportive natural compounds.
Exercise As the weather cools and the days shorten, it’s tempting to skip the workouts. Don’t let this be you!Maintaining a regular exercise regimen is key for supporting mood and warding off SAD.
Help is available - speak with someone today, at any time. The 988 Suicide and Crisis lifeline is a U.S-based suicide prevention network that provides free help for anyone in emotional distress.Dial the numbers 988 to be connected.