Don’t be SAD
By Marian Connor
I was thinking about a presentation we gave last week at Google Campus London about Seasonal Affective Disorder. We discussed how it affects us and what we can do to counteract it.
We can all recognise how affected we are by seasonal changes. Seasons bringing light and warmth are heartily welcomed. The cooler darker ones usually greeted with a shrug. The best they seem to offer is an opportunity for a wardrobe change which requires partaking in retail therapy. Of course you need a new coat, boots, scarves, gloves, the list is endless. And there is the opportunity for some festive socialising at the end of the year.
My main problem with the darker months is exactly that they are DARK. My brain craves light and those days when the sun forgets to rise are a problem for me.
The shift in light and weather not only affects our mood but can challenge our immune system. The way we feel has an impact felt throughout our bodies, including our immune system and the way it deals with pathogens, which is unfortunate at a time when there are an abundance of ‘buglies’ out there waiting to take up residence in your body and cause havoc. It is important we nurture a robust immune system.
There is no number 1 magic tip to oust SAD but I have a few suggestions that could make it a little less severe.
Increase light to reduce Melatonin.
Our Circadian Rhythm is set by a pacemaker within the brain; it imposes patterns of variation on hormones which affects our mood and health. SAD sufferers appear to secrete more of the hormone Melatonin which is regulated within our bodies through exposure to the blue spectrum in sunlight. This exposure slows down melatonin production because excess within the body can result in tiredness, lowering of mood, increase in appetite and suppression of the immune system.
We know how scarce daylight can be in the middle of winter, which is why many people benefit from the use of a light box which delivers the requisite amount of light for your daily requirements.
Some people find it beneficial to greet the day with an alarm that slowly exposes them to increasingly brighter blue light which eventually causes them to wake up naturally without a sound.
But your first line of defence should be to get yourself outside.
Eat foods rich in Tryptophan
When we feel low our body can often be in need of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has many functions including mood regulation, appetite, a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction.
Serotonin is produced in our body from tryptophan an essential amino acid we obtain in our diet. We can help this process by eating more foods rich in tryptophan which also include many other beneficial nutrients.
I read that Sea Lion and Elk are amongst the richest foods in tryptophan. Now you may have a problem acquiring them at your local farmers or supermarket and as a person of the vegetarian persuasion, I certainly won’t be partaking but many other types of meat and fish contain substantial amounts, as do the following:
Nuts and Seeds Soy Protein Cheese Beans Seaweed Spinach Lentils Oats
Eat foods rich in Omega 3
Omega 3 essential fatty acids are beneficial to your brain. Nurturing your brain will result in all kinds of benefits one of which is to increase the efficiency of serotonin synthesis. Foods rich in Omega 3:
Flax & Pumpkin Seeds Walnuts Yogurt Oily Fish Soy Protein Spinach Eggs
The use of essential oils can be a very pleasant way to lift your mood. It can also help ward against virus and bacteria and help with inflammation. The following oils seem to be amongst the best anti-everything, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory.
Eucalyptus Citradora (I have to warn you I think this smells like fly spray) Lemon Bay Petitgrain Cinnamon
The following herbs are amongst those that can be included into your diet to ward off illness and boost your immune system.
Mint Sage Thyme Basil Rosemary
If you are interested in the use of oils and herbs here are some links for further reading:
Physical activity increases tryptophan efficiency. It also nurtures your brain and your body. Movement creates an environment which nurtures neurons allowing them to connect and aid cognition. It doesn’t matter what you do, walk, run, dance, swim, just keep active.
Rest in Meditation
Meditation has a beneficial effect on the amygdala which is involved with positive emotion and responses such as optimism and resilience. It can also increase serotonin production as well as calm breath and slow your heart rate.
New research published in the Atlantic Magazine recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to reframe thinking about how you feel and how to change your thoughts for a better outlook.
I hope you find these suggestions useful perhaps as a starting point for further exploration to ways to lift that winter gloom. And on the topic of SAD you may like to read another of our blogs, Gloom Raider.
We will be presenting a talk on ‘Winter Wonderful’ at Campus London, a Google space, on the evening of December 2nd. Details via Eventbrite – maybe we will see you there?
Image Tile/Header – Woodcut Sun Face – Vintage free image
Hyperlink – Benefits of Essential Oils: 10 Natural Ways to Heal Yourself – Huff Post Canada
Hyperlink – Healthy Herbs: 25 of the Best for Your Body – Healthy Living
Hyperlink – Therapy over Lamps for Seasonal Depression – Atlantic Magazine
Hyperlink – Gloom Raider – 8 in the Universe
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