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

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