FLASH: The 2 most important treatment strategies for SAD are optimizing vitamin D level and Sun exposure.
In addition to optimizing vitamin D and getting daily light therapy, the following strategies may also be helpful in the treatment of SAD:
|Exercise:Exercise is a well-recognized tool for improving your mental health. In a Y 2008 interview with Dr. James Gordon, a world-renowned expert on mind-body medicine for the treatment of depression, he stated that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed, as it increases serotonin.It also boosts brain cells in your hippocampus, which are sometimes reduced in people with depression. He’s far from the only one to come to this conclusion. A 2013 meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found exercise is moderately more effective than a control intervention, which in some cases was pharmaceuticals, for reducing symptoms of depression.Other research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that aerobic exercise “at a dose consistent with public health recommendations” is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.If you can, do your workouts outdoors so you can get some sunlight exposure at the same time. As Dr. Meir Kryger, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, says, “The worst thing you can do is stay indoors and not be exposed to natural Sunlight at all.”|
|Optimize your sleep: You were designed to go to sleep when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises. If you stray too far from this biological pattern you will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body, which can affect both your mood and your health. The link between depression and lack of sleep is well established. More than 50% of people diagnosed with depression struggle with insomnia. In one study, 87% of depressionpatients who resolved their insomnia had major improvements to their depression, with symptoms disappearing after eight weeks. While there are individual differences, as a general rule, aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.|
|Clean up your diet: A factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope, and eating a diet of fresh, whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Refined sugar and processed fructose are known to have a very detrimental impact on your brain function and mental health in general. A classic book on this subject, “The Sugar Blues” by William Dufty, delves into this topic in great detail. Cutting out artificial sweeteners will also eliminate your chances of suffering their toxic effects.Interestingly, vegetarians are 4X more likely to suffer from SAD than nonvegetarians, so a primarily plant-based diet may not be ideal during the winter season. Vegetarians are also 2X as likely to suffer from nonseasonal depression, which suggests nutrient deficiencies may be involved in both.|
|Optimize your omega-3 status: A Key nutrient that is extremely important for healthy brain function and mental health is marine-based omega-3, found in small fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon. As with vitamin D, your best bet is to get tested, to ensure your omega-3 index is at 8% or above. One 2009 study showed that people with lower blood levels of omega-3’s were more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels reported the opposite emotional states.|
|Optimize your gut health: Fermented foods such as fermented vegetables are also important for optimal mental health, as they are Key for optimizing your gut health. Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood and behavior.|
It is natural for your body to want to slow down somewhat in the wintertime. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself to slow down a bit and surrender to the overwinter process may ultimately help you to respect your body’s circadian rhythm and recharge.
This does not mean planting yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. On the contrary, staying active and spending time outdoors during the day are among the best “cures” for SAD.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively