If you experience a shift in mood around this time of year, you may be interested in learning about the natural remedies for seasonal affective disorder.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at several natural remedies for seasonal affective disorder.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Many of us have a favorite season, where the air seems more alive and the sky seems more vivid. Many of us also have seasons which we would prefer to pass as quickly as possible. These preferences for particular times of year are a normal expression of personality.
For some, however, certain times of the year can produce overwhelming feelings of depression. You may find that you begin to isolate yourself in the winter months, or that your patience level drops during the summer months. You may notice that your work or home life becomes unbearably difficult for a few months out of each year, or that you begin to lack the motivation to complete your daily responsibilities during particular periods of time. If you can chart your psychological and emotional difficulties as being related to the calendar, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Affect is the term that psychologists use to describe expressions of emotion. As the title implies, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, implies that your emotions are negatively impacted by the arrival of a particular season. This pattern of emotional dysregulation can result in an overall deterioration of mood. While most who suffer from SAD will find that they experience depression during the winter, there are also a notable amount of cases of experiencing anxiety during the summer.
In order to qualify for a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the symptoms must have been present for two, consecutive, years, and have occurred as specifically related to the season in question. While categorized under the heading of depression, the symptoms of such can also exhibit anger, frustration, and agitation. Other symptoms include changes in eating or sleeping behavior, social isolation, lack of motivation, and thoughts of suicide.
Observations of a negative mood being associated with the winter months have been recorded as far back as 400 B.C. Ancient Greeks were able to note that there was a notable onset of depression which would occur just as the winter began, and were astute enough to attribute it to the lack of sunlight available. The Greeks identified a person experiencing seasonal depressive symptoms as being under the influence of bad humor, which scientists are now relating to the characteristics of a lack of bilirubin in the blood. Exposure to sunlight regulates the bilirubin which is produced by the body, and either too much or a lack of it can throw the body off balance.
This direct relation of Seasonal Affective Disorder to the availability of sunlight is supported by geographical studies. It has been observed that those living closer to the equator – where the distribution of sunlight is more uniform over the entire course of a year – are less likely to suffer from seasonal depression than those who live the poles of the planet. The human instinct to retire or recreate in more temperate locations, such as in the state of Florida, may be related to this innate knowledge of the benefits of living in a sunny area.
While once considered a condition that was only related to the lack of sunlight experienced in the winter, more recent observations have revealed that there is an opposite experience at work for some. Overexposure to heat – such as what occurs in the summer times – can also produce a negative mood. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder that are related to the warmer months include irritation, depression, anxiety, and exacerbation of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is also a notable age range for the disorder, with most beginning to experience it between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. That isn’t to say that you are out of the woods with it if not being diagnosed with it by the age of 31, however. It is often the case that the symptoms are endured for quite some time before being identified as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
As previously mentioned, remedies for improving the mood of those who suffer from the doldrums of winter have existed for thousands of years.
Ancient ideas continue to be applied toward relieving the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, as demonstrated with a town in Norway recently increasing exposure to light through the installation of a sun mirror. While we wait for similar treatments to arrive in the United States, there are several approaches to mitigating the effects of the seasons that you can apply on your own.
1. The Outdoors
If you suffer from the winter blues, one can’t get much more natural in a remedy than to simply spend some time in the outdoors. We live in a culture where much of our daylight time is spent inside of a classroom or office building. For many, these enclosures do not even include a window. Making sure to spend some time outside each day can result in more sunlight hitting the skin. This can assist the body in producing vitamin D, which is known to play a role in decreasing feelings of depression. Try taking a walk on your lunch break, or going for a hike on your weekends.
2. Light Boxes
If your day simply does not allow for some time outdoors, there is an indoor alternative. Electric lamps have evolved to include those which deliver an amount and type of light which is quite similar to that of the sun. Try bringing one of these lightboxes into your cubicle or study area.
3. Better Nutrition
This remedy applies to both the summer and winter types of Seasonal Affective Disorder. A multitude of studies has demonstrated a link between what we put into our bodies and our corresponding mood. Take advantage of the information available on the internet, and design a diet that fits into your mental health and lifestyle needs.
4. Talk Therapy
In addition to sunlight treatments, the ancient Greeks had another trick up their sleeve for alleviating depression. It involved engaging in deep conversations about the meaning of life. Like improvement in nutritional habits, this treatment can be helpful for alleviating the symptoms of any seasonal disorder. Find a good therapist with which to discuss any underlying, psychological, contributors to the negative mood experienced during certain seasons.
Now that you know several natural remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can work through the list and see which remedy helps you cope.
While some remedies may work for you, you may find that others aren’t as helpful. This is okay. Stick with the solution that helps you most and try to work it into your daily schedule. This will help you curb the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder and help you cope throughout the season.