Guys, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing. Directly related to how much sunlight we receive on a daily basis, its been scientifically proven that int he winter months (especially if you’re here in the North East) your serotonin levels fall, while your melatonin levels rise, due to the shorter days and longer nights. Since these naturally occurring chemicals influence our mood, and women are FOUR TIMES more likely to be diagnosed than men, it just goes to show that a lot of us can begin to suffer from the “winter blues.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy

  • Hypersomnia

  • Overeating

  • Weight gain

  • Craving for carbohydrates

  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

So, what do we do about it?

LIGHT THERAPY - According to Psychology Today, “Light therapy or exposure to artificial ultraviolet light improves symptoms in about 50 to 80 percent of people affected by SAD.  Such light can be delivered in several ways: light boxes, dawn simulators situated bedside, or light-emitting caps or visors.” You can find tools like these on Amazon.

DIET - what isn’t made in the kitchen? Turns out, your mood is too! When you’re feeling a little sluggish, some things you can reach for are foods that can help increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a a neurotransmitter that controls many bodily functions - directly affecting the mood. So what foods increase serotonin?? Dark leafy greens, complex carbs like sweet potatoes, omega-3 rich foods like salmon, avocado which also has energy-boosting B6 in it, eggs - which have zinc to help regulate blood sugar levels and good old DAIRY, rich in Vitamin D. Which brings me to my next point …

VITAMIN D - while the science is fuzzy around whether Vitamin D supplements will affect SAD, we do know that natural Vitamin D (from the sun, that is) can help. So there are many studies that show that a supplement of Vitamin D can, in fact, assist in benefiting, especially alongside other techniques. I recommend looking for a supplement made from whole foods - like the Garden of Life Raw D3.

EXERCISE - while it may be even tougher to get up and get moving in the cold winter months, there’s good reason to do so. Regular exercise between 30 and 60 minutes per day will not only whip you into shape, but release some of those tasty endorphins that make you feel so good after. Some ways to motivate yourself during this extra hard time: cute workout clothes, a “reward” at the end of a workout like a smoothie or latte - or even a nice luxurious shower or bath.

GET SOCIAL - connecting with friends can give you something to look forward to, and a much needed support system. Plan social gatherings and stick to them. Bonus points for telling your friends about how you’re feeling, they’ll certainly be there to support you.

TALK THERAPY - at the end of the day, it never hurts to talk it out to a totally unbiased party.

You can read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder from NIMH here.

Stay warm (& happy) everyone!