Autumn. For most people in our region this is a time for celebrating the colours of the trees, long hikes without bugs, and a culinary return to pots of soup and other warming foods. But for many this is the beginning of an annual decline in their mood and energy, commonly called SAD or ‘the winter blues’. Symptoms can range from mild – such as a tendency to oversleep and overeat, especially carbohydrates – to more debilitating – such as a difficulty concentrating, and withdrawal from friends and family.
While many sufferers may not experience the depths of SAD until January-February, now is the time to take action. The habits you begin at this time can help lessen the intensity of your symptoms and may even prevent a drop in your mood altogether. Some helpful new habits include...
Exercise - There are many studies showing exercise to be "nature's mood enhancer". A challenge often exists, though: who feels motivated to exercise when they are already down? The solution is to start now; create the daily routine of being active for 30 minutes while the weather is still fair and daylight hours are longer. Then when the mornings are colder and darker you will already be experiencing the benefits and will find it easier to get moving. For even greater benefit to your mood, do this activity outside as often as possible. Even a 30 minute walk will suffice!
Your food choices - A study (published in the Archives of General Psychiatry) following >15,000 people showed that those who ate a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and fish had a lower incidence of developing depression than those who ate a more typical North American diet. This is significant. If you are seeking relevant recipes, look to The Mediterranean Diet as a good place to start.
Vitamin D - Casually known as 'the happy vitamin of summertime'. Each person's requirement for this nutrient is different; 1 capsule of 1,000IU will not meet everybody's needs. The only way to know if you are consuming enough is to have your blood tested by your ND (naturopathic doctor) or MD (allopathic doctor).
Other Nutritional Supplements* - Many people notice an improvement with daily supplementation of products such as St. John’s Wort and B vitamins.
*Be mindful that 'natural' does not mean 'safe'. If you are taking prescription medications be sure to consult with a knowledgeable ND prior to commencing any supplementation.
Intravenous (IV) Therapy - IV is one of our favourite tools for mood disorders because it works so well. This is the infusion of vitamins, minerals and amino acids directly in to your blood so you can start feeling better as soon as possible.
Pleasure - Take note of what activities lift you up and give you joy. Is it walking through an art gallery? …spending time with a specific group of friends? …watching Mama Mia? Prioritize these activities throughout the coming months, going so far as to schedule them in now.
If prevention is not enough for you this winter, be sure to ask your ND or MD for help.