Fight Winter Depression Naturally

Natural Ways to Cure Winter Depression 

As the days grow shorter and fall turns into winter, do you tend to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and occasionally depressed? Would you love to have a solution that doesn't involve antidepressants or chemical stimulants? Here are some naturals solutions to curing winter blues without medication.

 Some Symptoms of Winter Blues

  • Your mood changes as the seasons change
  • You feel depressed (mildly or more)
  • You sleep too much
  • You have less energy  - or no energy, you are very lethargic
  • You have difficulty waking up in the morning
  • You have a craving for carbohydrates, resulting in weight gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder - "S.A.D."

People have varying degrees of the above listed symptoms. Those with the most sever symptoms may even be diagnosed with what has come to be called Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly called SAD. Studies have found that approximately 20% of the population may have some of these symptoms, but not severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria. Symptoms of winter depression seem to increase in people living farther and farther from the equator.  Symptoms of winter blues seem to occur more often in women than men.

Why does S.A.D. or Winter Depression Happen?

Scientists have determined that the cause of seasonal mood variations and winter depression are often light related, a result of inadequate bright light and low levels of Vitamin D. The symptoms may be an evolved human adaptation that can be compared to the hibernation patterns of wild animals.

Biological Factors Involved in Winter Depression

A very simplified explanation is as follows:
Melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep,  is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is affected by light. Decreased exposure to sunlight during the winter triggers increased levels of melatonin making us want to sleep more. On the other hand, seratonin, a chemical found in the brain, is a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel more rested, energetic, and generally happy. It is also adversely affected by light. Reduced daylight means a reduction in the production of seratonin. The combination triggers the symptoms of winter blues.

Five Ways to Battle Depression

Since an increase in seratonin causes us to feel more rested, energetic and 'upbeat', it follows that if we can increase the levels in our bodies, then the negative effect of winter blues can be diminished.

 How to Fight Winter Blues

    • Increase outdoor activity on sunny days to increase solar exposure
    • Establish a workout regime.  Exercise itself increases seratonin levels. Ideally, you will benefit most by exercising outdoors in the daylight, but exercise indoors will still be beneficial.
    • Eat healthy foods. Stay away form sugar.  If you are craving carbs, go for complex carbs including complex carbs, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits, corn and potatoes
    • Vitamin D and Vitamin B complex increase seratonin levels. Add these supplements to your diet. They have other multiple health benefits as well.
    • Use Light Treatment Photo Therapy.  Decrease fall and winter depression through regular exposure to full spectrum or fluorescent light.

Using a Light Therapy "Box" or Lamp

Get a light therapy lamp that gives off 2500 to 10,000 lux (the measure of illumination). Use it regularly in the morning and mid afternoon for 15 minutes to 2 hours at the recommended distance. Over a few weeks time, or less, you will feel happier and less moody. (Don't use the light therapy lamp in the evenings, as you want the diminishing light of day to allow for your meletonin levels to rise again, assuring that you will be able to fall asleep at night.)

I recommend two different lights, each with its own advantages, depending on what appeals to you.

I personally use this one and have been very happy with it: BlueMax 70w Full Spectrum Dimmable Desk Lamp. This one serves double-duty as a desk lamp, and is very convenient for me, as I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. It is heavy and sturdy, is very well made and has a dimmable light so that you don't have to use it strictly for therapy purposes.

This is another that I have and use:  Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device. This one is compact and comes with a travel case. It has a clock and a light timer. It's great to take to the office, or if you travel a lot, it packs easily and is also helpful for jet lag. Read my review of the Philips goLite BLU.

Recommended Reading for Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Winter Blues

10 Tips to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
Do you often have trouble with falling asleep, or waking up during the night, and then have trouble getting up in the morning? Lack of sleep, (or in more extreme cases - insomnia) can bring on a variety  of undesirable symptoms.

Symptoms of Sleep Loss or Sleep Deprivation

  • You wake up exhausted, feeling "hungover" or spacey
  • You are sleepy, sluggish or drowsy during the day
  • You are unable to think clearly or accomplish tasks efficiently
  • You feel "tired all the time"
  • You are often irritable, angry, depressed or anxious, for no
    particularly good reason
Lack of sleep can cause your immune system to become compromised because the body has not had enough time to heal and rejuvenate itself. As a result you are more likely to succumb to seasonal
infections and take longer to recuperate from illnesses.

Sleep Tips to Incorporate into Your Life to Help You Get a Good
Night's Sleep

  1. Sleep only at night.  Taking naps during the day will only make you less tired in the evening.
  2. Get on a consistent sleep/wake-up schedule. Get up at the same time on weekends as you do during the week.  This will help your body to develop a natural sleep rhythm.
  3. Exercise during the morning or daytime. Exercise in the evening does not help your body to relax.
  4. Try taking a hot bath or shower before bedtime to help relax you.
  5. Keep the bedroom slightly cooler.
  6. Read a light novel or listen to soft music to help you unwind and relax.
  7. Don't eat a big meal within two hours of going to bed. Instead, eat light, and choose food with a high content of L-tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the body to produce seratonin which is a hormone that the brain releases for a calming effect. Food such as shrimp, turkey, tuna, chicken, salmon, asparagus, cheese, eggs, kale, whole wheat, black beans, kidney beans and pumpkin seeds contain high levels of L-tryptophan. You can also try L-Tryptophan supplements in 1000-1500mg doses for the same result.
  8. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and sugar within 2 hours of bedtime. These are all stimulants.( Contrary to popular belief, alcohol will not help you to seep better, as it wears off it puts your body in a very restless state.)  Instead try drinking Valerian teavalerian tea. The Valerian root has been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal herb to treat anxiety and insomnia. It will not leave you groggy or foggy feeling in the morning. Use it daily for 2-4 weeks for best results.
  9. Try taking Vitamin B3 (niacin) about 20 minutes before bedtime. Take between 100 and 500 mg. It may give you a warm tingly feeling (niacin flush) which will subside quickly. If it bothers you, lower the dosage a little. You can also purchase no flush niacin supplements.
  10. Sleep in silence and complete darkness.  Your body will produce more melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone if you keep the room as dark as possible. If you have an alarm clock with a bright face, turn it to the wall or, even better, cover it with something so that there is no light in the room. If you wake up at night you won't know what time it is, which can make it harder to fall back to sleep, knowing how soon you have to get up. You can also try taking a
    melatonin supplementmelatonin (3-6 mg) about an hour before bedtime.
Finally if you are a person who may or may not have had a good night's sleep, but hate being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock, consider looking into a Light Therapy wake-up lamp. It wakes you in a natural way with light that increases gradually, providing a more pleasant and natural way to wake up in the morning. The Wake Up Light simulates the sunrise to help you face the morning with a better mood and energy level. It also has a power down mode that you can use before bedtime to simulate nightfall. That should help you get a better night's sleep as well.

Natural Sleep Remedy - Raw or Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Sleep Better Naturally - A health Benefit of Pumpkin Seeds

Improve your Quality of Sleep - A Natural Home Sleep Remedy

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night in spite of being tired? Or do you wake up during the night?  Lack of sleep over an extended period of time not only affects your mental health and cognitive abilities, but also wears on your physical health as well.

Sleep Better Naturally

A natural solution to sleep disorders is clearly a better choice for your health than over the counter or prescription drugs.