From SAD to Sunny: Easy Steps for Countering Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Resolute Michaels, NTP

The days are short, the sun hangs low in the sky, and clouds obscure what little sunlight there is. When you feel those clouds will smother you, your thinking is chronically muddled, low energy is a constant companion, and all you want to do is eat cookies and hibernate until spring, you probably have some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Short of hopping a plane to Mexico or Hawaii, what can we do to counteract this very real disorder that used to be called “the winter blahs?”

The Three Step Solution
There’s a three-step protocol anyone can implement on their own to counteract SAD: Light, Movement, and Supplemental Nutrients. This combination can boost the serotonin and dopamine activity in your brain, increase your cerebral blood flow, and reduce your stress hormones! As a result you will feel more energetic, think more clearly, enjoy better moods, feel more relaxed and cope better with stress.

Light
Do you experience a mood boost on the rare sunny winter day? That’s what natural light can do for you! It’s necessary and nourishing. Less known is that a 20-minute walk on a cloudy day can provide an adequate amount of light, as long as you raise your face to the sky. But it’s raining, you say? Look for a clear plastic umbrella that will let the light through, but not the water!

If you are unable to get outdoors into natural light, using a light box for 15 – 30 minutes each morning is a good substitute. You can set it up where you have your morning coffee or where you prepare for the day. Marlene’s sells a variety of full-spectrum bulbs for different lamp fixtures.

Movement
Did you notice that simple 20-minute walk outdoors counts as double duty for the first two steps, Light and Movement? It’s an unbeatable combination! If you’re someone who heads to work in the dark and returns home in the dark, it may be hard to fit in a daylight walk. If so, don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good: simply head to the gym. You can’t even get to the gym, you say? Consider putting on some upbeat music and dancing while you prepare dinner and when cleaning up afterward!

Nutrients
While it’s best to obtain nutrients from food, our soil is depleted and the food grown therein lacks the nutrient density it had fifty years ago. And, while you may be taking a daily multivitamin to compensate, you may still be missing certain nutrients in quantities that can boost your mood. Adding the following supplements may be just what you need, in combination with the first two steps, to get you through the winter: B Complex (containing 50 mg of B1, B2, B6, 400 micrograms of Folate), Vitamin D (400-800 IUs), and Selenium (200 micrograms).

The B vitamins relieve fatigue, improve memory, help convert tryptophan into serotonin, and are needed by the body to produce SAM-e, which helps relieve depression. Vitamin D also stimulates the production of serotonin, while Selenium enhances dopamine activity.

In Conclusion
While there may be other factors at play that affect your moods, these three simple actions can go a long way to allowing you to enjoy your life no matter the season!

Resolute Michaels, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, operates Primal Perspectives health consulting. Reach her at RSM@PrimalPerspectives.com or by calling 206.910.4922.