Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the Winter Blues

Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the Winter Blues

Author -  Good Health

Find out how Vitamin D can play a major role in beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and check out our top 10 tips for saying goodbye to the ‘winter blues’…

Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, usually during winter, and is often referred to as “The Winter Blues”. The exact cause isn't fully understood but is said to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months. This occurs because sunlight can affect some of the brain's chemicals and hormones. Although it is not fully understood why or how, one theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep.  Lack of sunlight is thought to affect the production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, brain chemicals involved in mood, as well as sleep regulation.  Serotonin is a feel good brain chemical and low levels have been linked to mood, stress, anxiety and poor sleeping patterns because serotonin can also be converted into melatonin in the brain; and melatonin is the important brain chemical for healthy sleeping patterns. 

Symptoms of SAD include: oversleeping, depression or low mood (usually due to lack of Vitamin D), anxiety, fatigue, loss of energy and changes in appetite – typically in the form of craving carbohydrate foods (yes, that’s the reason we crave ‘comfort food’).

Another interesting fact is that the lack of sunlight during the winter months is also linked to a lack of Vitamin D, specifically Vitamin D3 - the active form of Vitamin D most readily used by the body; and depression may occur as a result of Vitamin D deficiency.  It has also been found that Vitamin D in doses of at least 400 - 800 IU per day may improve mood in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) patients.

So don't brush off those “winter blues” thinking that you just have to tough it out – try some Vitamin D3 leading up to and during the winter months to keep your mood and motivation stabilised during winter. And check out our top 10 tips for a ‘happier you’…

  1. Go outside within two hours of waking up
    Even if it’s cold, taking a walk around the block and soaking in the natural daylight will help mollify your blahs.
  2. Take Vitamin D supplements
    Studies conducted during winter on people without seasonal affective disorder (SAD) found that Vitamin D supplements produced improvements in various measures of mood.
  3. Eat more complex carbohydrates
    You might crave junk food and greasy comforting things like pizza and pasta during the sluggish, cold winter months, but stuffing yourself with sugar and refined flours will only make you feel even worse. Complex carbs take longer to digest which means they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar that can create roller-coaster moods; they also increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Opt for whole grains and complex carbs like spinach, yams, broccoli, beans, zucchini, lentils, skim milk, and more, which will fill you up while also providing long-lasting nourishment.
  4. Make your house brighter
    It’s all about getting as much natural light into your house or apartment as possible. Keep your blinds and curtains totally open during the day, and if necessary, trim the shade-throwing trees around your windows. Use bright colours on your walls and light-coloured upholstery. Clutter can be mentally discouraging, so clean your room and house as often as possible.
  5. Stay social
    Though it’s tempting to hibernate and avoid going out completely in the winter, force yourself to maintain your favourite social activities. Lolling around on your couch marathoning your favourite TV shows feels good in the moment, but in the long run, being around your friends will brighten your mood way more.
  6. Make your bed every day
    It’s a simple way to feel accomplished. Bonus: It will keep you from getting back into it!
  7. Limit your caffeine intake
    Sweet, sugary caffeine-filled drinks spike your insulin levels while dropping blood sugar levels, contributing to a sense of fatigue. All of that caffeinated coffee and tea can be dehydrating too. Up your water intake and opt for decaf - your body will thank you for it.
  8. Get some exercise.
    Who wants to go to the gym when there are so many toasted sandwiches to be consumed? We know, we know. But physical exercise is a proven depression buster.
  9. Buy some flowers for the house - treat yourself!
    Splurge on something as simple as flowers for your home, or anything that will give your everyday routine a little extra flare. Coming home each day to a beautiful aroma and bright cheery flowers can instantly brighten your mood.
  10. Keep a set sleep schedule.
    Sleeping until noon on winter Saturdays feels heavenly, but if you can, try to adhere to a regular sleeping schedule. Because face it, spending a whole day in bed only makes you feel guilty about all that stuff you should be doing. Right? Right.


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Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time