Cold, short days with limited sunshine mix together for a perfect storm of seasonal depression but you don’t have to be stuck in the dumps. Seasonal affective disorder, a reaction to reduced sunlight, affects up to 20% of Americans—and three-quarters of those affected are women. The winter blues can cause an increased desire to be alone, decrease in energy, trouble concentrating, fatigue, greater appetite, greater need for sleep, and weight gain.
While many people may feel that they just have to deal with these symptoms until spring comes, that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many things that can help combat seasonal depression, such as changing your diet, volunteering, and exercising.
Fighting Depression with Your Diet
Compared with people who eat few fruits and veggies, those who go big on produce are less likely to be anxious or depressed, according to one study of 80,000 people. The more produce people ate, the happier they were. Start with these foods that decrease your chances of getting depressed. Fruits and veggies aren’t the only depression fighting super foods. Here’s a list of tasty treats that can boost your mood.
- Salmon, Tuna, Sardines & Pollock
- the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may affect the brain in ways that modify levels of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are neurotransmitters thought to be involved in depression
- With a high concentration of potassium, dietary fiber, folate and glucosinolate compounds radishes are full of nutrients. Consuming plenty of folate can lower the risk of depression, heart disease, cancer as well as hearing and vision loss in the elderly.
- Oysters & Clams
- Besides being an important source of Omega 3 fats, they contain zinc and vitamin B12. Zinc helps to fight off stress and supports healthy brain function.
- Walnuts & Flax
- Nuts and seeds, especially these two, are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid. In research from the Nurses’ Health Study, women who had the most ALA in their diets were less likely to be depressed.
- One of the antioxidants pomegranate juice contains is called phytochemical compounds, which positively affects the estrogen and the serotonin receptors in the brain.
- Researchers found that Lactobacillus – “friendly” bacteria present in live-cultured yogurt – reversed depressive-like behavior in mice by altering their gut microbiome, the population of microorganisms that reside in the intestines
- These contain the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, higher levels of which are linked to higher moods.
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Vitamin D keeps your bones strong, helps with weight loss and fighting depression. Shiitake mushrooms are packed with Vitamin D and B, which has numerous health benefits, including stress relief.
Get Plenty of Vitamin D
Several studies in 2014 found that low levels of vitamin D were linked to seasonal affective disorder. Likewise, people who took vitamin D supplements saw significant improvement in their depression.
Helping Others to Help Yourself
- Create new thought patterns
- Volunteering gets you up and out the door and taking a positive action – helping others. Pushing yourself into more positive action is one way to break the cycle of negative thoughts and low moods, a method known as ‘behavioral intervention’.
- There’s also the added benefit of changing your focus. This means you get a much needed break from your negative thoughts and might even find yourself experiencing positive ones. Positive thoughts can change your cycle of thoughts, emotions, and actions into an upward, instead of downward, spiral
- Change your perspective
- Volunteering can show you different perspectives on life by having you interacting with people you might not encounter otherwise and learning about the way they see their lives. This can cause a shift in the way you see and live your life. It might help you to see, ‘I do have useful skills’, ‘I can change others lives’, ‘I have more power than I realized’.
- Become a better you
- Volunteering can teach you new skills, improve the ones you already have, help you feel useful, give you more purpose, and also improve your interrelating with others. Combining all of these things can also increase your confidence. It’s hard to be depressed when you feel good about yourself!
Sometimes deciding how to get involved with a charity can seem like an overwhelming task, check out our list of local upcoming events to help you get started.
Exercise to Lift Spirits
- Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being
- Much like volunteering, breaking sweat can take your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting can help your mood.
Of course you won’t be laying out by the pool in the deep of winter but bundling up for a short stroll could have great results! The sun is brightest around noon so take that time to venture outside or open your blinds to let in one of nature’s best antidepressants.
Try Light or Aroma Therapy
If the sun is just nowhere to be found, try a light therapy box. Sitting in front of a light box each morning for about 30 minutes will stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress the natural release of melatonin which will make you feel more awake and ready for your day.
Essential oils can aid in your mood, sleep, and appetite, all of which are affected by seasonal depression.
Make your health a top priority, your mind and body will reward you!