Are you one of those strange people who gets excited this time of year. No I'm not talking about Halloween, or Christmas, I'm talking about one of those freakish people who enjoys winter.
Ok, I understand that not everyone who enjoys winter is strange and I'm sure that there are some lovely things to do, like sitting in a tent on a frozen lake trying to coax a fish to come up where it's warm and cozy, but for some of us the emergence of fall and the impending winter brings with it a difficult and sometimes scary time. Now of course if you're one of the lucky people who lives close to the equator, then this probably isn't a factor for you, but for some of the rest of us it can be a real issue.
Many people have now heard the term Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a now recognized type of depression that is triggered by the changing of seasonings and is directly corelated to the reduction in natural sunlight that is occurring each day is thought to affect the amount of Serotonin your brain produces. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well being and happiness. So in other words Life-Sunshine=-Serotonin=SAD
Many people refer to SAD as the winter blues but what does it really mean? Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder like any other mental illness affect people in different ways and to varying degrees. Some people may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- having low energy
- disruption to sleeping patterns
- changes in appetite or weight
- feeling overly tired or sluggish
- feeling overly agitated
- having trouble concentrating
- increased desire for isolation
- thoughts of helplessness, worthlessness, guilt or suicide.
One of the most important things that you can do when the seasons start shifting is be aware of your moods, emotions and body. How are you truly feeling? If you notice that you start to experience varying degrees of SAD then you are able to take steps to try to proactively deal with it. So that is the next question..."What can you do to deal with SAD"
Not everyone who suffers from SAD needs to seek medical advice, depending on how extreme your symptoms are there are many things you can do to treat yourself.
-Bright Light: this is one of the most recognized treatments for SAD. Special lights are now being made that you can purchase for at home use. What they recommend is spending 20 minutes under these UV safe lights as a means of replacing the natural light that we have lost due to the seasonal change.
-Exercise: being active, especially aerobically causes the release of natural amino acids in the body that can then be converted by the brain into Serotonin. Guess what this amino acid is called? Tryptophan!
-Food: Do you know where else you can find this amazing acid Tryptophan? Turkey Dinner! You can't actually eat serotonin, but by eating high protein foods like Turkey and Salmon you can ingest the Tryptophan that your brain will then convert. Maybe that's why we're so happy after eating Thanksgiving Dinner.
-Supplements: There are natural supplements that you can take that will help with increasing the amino acids you need to create Serotonin including Pure Tryptophan, 5-HTP, SAMe. Like any medication please do your research on the supplements that you are taking, as well as the manufacturers.
-And of course, if you feel like your symptoms are increasingly affecting your life negatively, one of the most important treatments you can partake for SAD is talking to your doctor or nutritionist.
We need to remember that even though Seasonal Affective Disorder may seem like it's nothing more than just the winter blues, for many people it can grow into something more serious if not addressed. So as with anything you are feeling or going through, talk to someone you trust, share what you are going through and be kind to yourself, and remember the sun will shine once again.