The happy holidays are approaching but some of us get S.A.D. Did you know that in 2002, Columbia University conducted a study confirming that people with brown eyes suffer more from S.A.D. than those with blue eyes? Apparently blue irises admit more light into the eyeball. That means that when days get shorter and darker I have an excuse to be tired and cranky.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a term first coined by psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal after he moved from sunny Johannesburg to New York city and sank into a deep depression. He went on to discover that latitude affects your attitude as the incidence of S.A.D. increases the farther people live away from the equator and also that three to four times more women than men suffer from S.A.D.
Symptoms associated with S.A.D. are lack of energy, low concentration, sleep problems, anxiety, panic attacks, carb cravings, overeating, and lowered immune function.
S.A.D. is treated conventionally with a light box, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and anti-depressant medication. The medications are supposed to help with mood chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, which helps with brain cell communications, and dopamine, the chemical released during pleasure such as when having sex or eating.
What are some more natural ways to prevent or reduce S.A.D symptoms, besides the two activities just mentioned?
Crawling under the covers for the next four months is an option, and your family may appreciate it, but when your immunity is at stake it’s a better idea to be proactive. Heading south for the winter is not available to everyone. So, here are some other suggestions:
Get outside in daylight whenever you can. Bundle up and just do it. Exercise or even a short walk to your friendly neighbour’s for a social visit or to exchange a recipe can raise your brain mood chemicals without side effects.
Eat a diet high in beneficial fats such as lean meat, poultry and fish – preferably range fed or wild, organic, and antibiotic-free sources. Nuts, seeds, avocados, hemp, and olives are vegetarian sources of good fats. It is believed that Icelandics have a lower incidence of S.A.D. because they intake plenty of oily fish. If you do milk products, eat them whole, not skimmed. Add loads of butter to your vegetables and olive oil to your salad. Do not eat a low-fat diet to avoid cholesterol. This is a myth that is long overdue for being laid to rest. Cholesterol helps our bodies build Vitamin D which has been labeled the “sunshine vitamin” because we make more of it when the sun shines and our moods are increased. Vitamin D helps drive minerals into the blood and fats help transport them to the tissues and organs and therefore the brain. Amazing how that’s all organized by your body.
To avoid your brain calling for sugar to boost your mood, eat frequent protein snacks and only complex whole carbohydrate foods such as lentils, beans, and whole grains like rice and quinoa. Avoid refined sugar, flour and corn products. If you supply your brain with lots of minerals it will not need to cry for sugar. Your brain is a mineral hog. Sea salt has 82 trace minerals. Take a pinch in water daily. Sea salt is not a sodium isolate and does not contribute to high blood pressure, though sugar surely does. Ask your Doctor if you are in any doubt about this nutritious source.
If you wish to take supplements, omega 3’s, D3, Magnesium, and 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) are the most popular choices for mood elevation, but I do not recommend you take these isolated, fractionated supplements for the long term. They will eventually create imbalance. Instead, use whole food concentrated supplements with names that sound like food, not chemicals, such as cod liver oil, or dried carrot root, alfalfa or buckwheat. Randomly buying isolated minerals or vitamins may backfire, so please get individually tested for your specific needs.
Some herbs that support mood are St. John’s Wort, Gingko Biloba, and Bacopa. Aroma therapy oils such as citrus, lavender, peppermint, and frankincense can lift your spirits as well. Foot and body massages, energy healing modalities and hugs always do a body good. Finally, laughter is the best medicine of all. Best Wishes to you and yours for a Happy, Healthy Holiday.