Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as winter depression, affects nearly 20 percent of the population. The lack of sunshine, short days, and cold weather all contribute to a melancholy mood for sufferers. Though there are medications and therapies that can ease the symptoms, many prefer to use natural methods to chase away the blues. If you’re interested in brightening your day naturally through the harsh winter months, here are a few suggestions.
1. Include Fish Oil in Your Diet
Studies have shown that fish oil can improve several illnesses, including depression and anxiety. One study found that those who took 2.5 mg of fish oil per day reported 20 percent less anxiety, and 11 out of 14 patients reported fewer depression symptoms. Sometimes, getting rid of the winter blues can be as simple as adding important nutrients to your diet.
2. Get Outside
When it’s cold, cloudy, and the daylight hours are significantly shorter, getting the sunlight needed to eliminate vitamin D deficiency can become tricky. Fortunately, getting outside for just an hour each day can help, even if it’s not warm. Bundle up – the time outdoors will boost your vitamin D levels, and probably your mood, too.
3. Eat the Right Foods
Darker days and sad moods often result in poorer health. People tend to gravitate more towards comfort foods and forget about the healthier foods that provide essential vitamins and nutrients.
Sugar, for one, can reduce serotonin levels – a necessary mental health chemical – and make you feel worse. The key is replacing packaged goods with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and multivitamins.
4. Take Supplements
If you’re struggling to gain the essential nutrients, like vitamin D, through your food, turn to a supplement. Physical health has a profound impact on mental health, and supplements can help to eliminate some of your more prominent deficiencies. It’s better to get this nutrients through your food, but taking vitamins can help pick up the slack.
Sometimes the best treatment for winter woes is realizing you’re not the only one struggling. Finding opportunities to serve or give back in the community can be exactly what you need to return to full mental health. As Ghandi is famous for saying, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Volunteer at a soup kitchen, offer your services in a youth program, or give to those less fortunate. Any of these acts can help you feel more whole and happy.
6. Join a Gym
One study from Harvard University shows that getting 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, as the CDC recommends, can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression. There’s a direct link between physical and mental health. One reason that many people begin to feel down during winter is because they stop exercising regularly. Joining a gym (and actually going) can boost mood and return the body to full health.