SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder - Some Tips For Getting Through The Winter Blues

It is that time of year again when some of us are trying to cope with a lack of sunshine and the resulting lack of motivation to get outside, exercise, and do other things that will lift our spirits.

The short video above with its perky narrator might be just what the doctor ordered!

I personally like her way of explaining what happens to our brains during SAD- the erudite might see her explanation as "junk science" but anything that helps to give a more positive perspective in a dark time is as least as useful as reading over a more verifiable scientific theory that doesn't lend itself to being understood during a confusing and depressing time in one's life.  She explains that Seasonal Affective Disorder has to do with a brain chemical (hormone) imbalance.

In the evening our brain produces a hormone that helps us sleep, called melatonin.   As dawn light begins we our brain clicks over from producing melatonin, to producing the hormone serotonin.  Serotonin is the 'feel happy' 'wellness' hormone...  In this video the narrator suggests that the brain of the person with SAD does not click over to producing serotonin, possibly because it lacks the sunlight/dawn cues to do so.  So, the person with SAD goes through the day putting out the sleep hormone and thus often exhibits low energy, sleepiness, anxiety and grumpiness that we recognize in ourselves when we are sleep-deprived.  They are not motivated to do 'waking hours' work and play.

The video's author suggests 5 Tips for non-pharmaceutical that helped her* overcome the symptoms of SAD:
The Lumie can be ordered through Amazon

1. Artificial Light: She demo'd a clock-light called LUMIE that you place beside your bed and that simulates the gradual occurence of dawning light (with subsequent brightness) from the time you start the setting to when you want your brain to be cued to start the serotonin production at "daybreak" (your getting-up time).  Conversely, the Lumie will simulate sundown in the evening. (She didn't mention it, but Dr. Nedley and others suggest that going to bed 'early' is a good habit to get into-- every hour of sleep before midnight is apparently effectively equivalent to two hours of sleep after midnight).

2. Make Your Own Serotonin: She suggests two easy nutritional 'fixes' for getting the serotonin in: Chop some bananas into your porridge in the morning, and have a *tiny bit* (whatever that is, ha) of dark chocolate during your day.  Here is a recipe for a smoothie version  Dr. John Gray's seratonin-stimulating drink that I call Seratonin SendUp.  (You also get the bonus video of Dr. Gray's exercise protocol for boosting your seratonin, which goes with the next tip)

3. Exercise: Yes, perhaps what most of us least want to hear when we feel grumpy and blue is that it really really helps to dress up and get outside and do something active-- go to the gym or work up to a fairly brisk 10-15 minute walk.  You know that it works.

4. Put events into your Dayliner, or the diary on your phone, or calendar for one thing each day to look forward to-- and I don't mean a game of candy crusher on Facebook-- something that gets you out of your normal routine, gets you outside, if possible.  Do something fun with a friend. Schedule to get together for "a natter" as this affable Brit calls a"chat".  Go out for a mid-week supper with someone you would like to get to know better.  She suggests putting a post-it-note on your bedside table so you are reminded when you awake that you have something you enjoy coming up that day.

5. If you don't seem to be making the progress you want, you might want to try Vitamin D supplements or St. John's Wart... 

The idea is to keep yourself going and to recognize SAD symptoms so you can re-start some of what works above if you have found a particular tip really helped you. 

*While these 'tips' helped the video's narrator and are useful to many others, they might not alleviate your feelings of sadness, anxiety, etc. I am not a doctor. If you are feeling more than usually sad, anxious, hopeless, frustrated, unable to sleep, etc. please consult your health care professional.  All the best!

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Turn off the news. Throw away the newspaper. Get outside and go for a walk. Dr. Christiane Northrup said going for a walk is a perfectly acceptable form of treatment for certain types of depression!