If you notice that your mood changes with the season, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of temporary depression that can have a negative effect on your life for one quarter of the year. The good news is, SAD is a treatable condition. There are many ways to take your life back without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking too much or withdrawing from friends and family.
The Chemicals Inside
In order to understand how to treat SAD, you must first understand what causes it. The prevailing theory is that a drop in serotonin, a hormone triggered by sunlight, results in sadness. After a few weeks of shorter days, your body will begin to react by becoming irritable, fatigued and melancholy. In addition to serotonin, the hormone melatonin plays a part in your overall emotional state. Waning sunlight triggers your body to produce more melatonin, which is typically associated with sleep. Since you likely aren’t ready to hit the hay by 4 pm, your brain fights against itself, leaving you in a season-long cycle of depression.
Say Goodbye, Grumpiness
Fortunately, you already have many of the tools you need to get better at your disposal. Getting a mood boost may be as simple as spending an afternoon with friends and family, meditating, and prioritizing gut, heart, and brain health. An Everyday Health article medically reviewed by Dr. Laura E. Marusinec further suggests that exercise can help you get yourself back on track emotionally. Physical activity doesn’t just affect the body but also tells the brain to effectively override feelings of sadness by ramping up its production of endorphins. Endorphins are powerful hormones, and they stimulate the reward center of the brain in the same way as sex, eating an enjoyable meal, or cuddling with someone you love.
Depression Linked to Inflammation
Your body is made up of numerous systems that work together to define your health, both physical and mental. When something goes wrong with any of the systems, your nerves began to tingle and send a red alert to the rest of your body. Your body, in turn, responds with inflammation. It’s like when you get hurt and experience swelling at the point of injury, except that this inflammation is internal and can’t be seen by the naked eye. It can be felt as nausea, stress, mental confusion, weakness, joint pain, fatigue or depression. Natural methods to stave off inflammation include using supplements, such as CBD oil, and eliminating sugar from your diet. Years of evidence suggest that CBD, a compound found controversially in the cannabis plant, can reduce inflammation, which can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Reframing Your Thinking and Adjusting Your Environment
If you surround yourself with negativity, or look at winter as a negative experience, you will react with like emotions. Make a point to reframe your thinking during the winter. One SAD suffer explains that doing activities associated with the cold months has given her a new outlook during the winter. They have made it something to look forward to instead of a time to fear. You can also make changes to your environment and daily schedule that will positively influence your mood. The Mayo Clinic advocates the use of a light box, which is a device that mimics the sun, as a first line of defense against seasonal affective disorder. Keep in mind, our biological instinct is to stay indoors and rest when it’s dark. So it can be useful to adjust your schedule to go to bed earlier. Chances are, you aren’t sleeping enough anyway.
Beating seasonal affective disorder means paying attention to your body and making a conscious effort to give your brain the tools it needs to counter the slump in your emotions. It’s not going to happen overnight, but by prioritizing the things that make you healthy and happy, you give yourself a better chance of getting through winter without the debilitating effects of seasonal depression.
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