Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects as many as 10 to 20 percent of Americans each year during the winter months. If you’re feeling irritable, moody, fatigued or less energetic during the winter season, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder. The good news is, you don’t have to resign yourself to months of moodiness each year. Read on to find out what causes seasonal affective disorder, and learn about safe, natural ways to treat it. 

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder? Many of us love throwing open the curtains in the morning and basking in the sunlight. There’s actually a biochemical reason for that. When our bodies are exposed to sunlight, it triggers the production of a chemical called cholecalciferol, which is ultimately converted to Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary to regulate the production of serotonin, a hormone which helps produce a feeling of well-being and which has been linked to depression at low levels. Lack of sunlight also triggers the release of a chemical called melatonin, which contributes to feelings of fatigue and helps you sleep at night. In other words, when you’re exposed to less sunlight, your body produces more melatonin (making you feel more sleepy and sluggish) and you absorb less Vitamin D, which means less serotonin production and a higher chance of depression.

How to naturally treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are several simple and natural treatment for SAD. Keep a regular daytime/nighttime schedule to avoid throwing off your sleep patterns, which can disrupt your body’s natural biorythms and exacerbate mood disorders and fatigue. Maintain a healthy diet that’s high in protein, which are the building blocks for many hormones, and avoid too many processed carbs, which can contribute to irritability and moodiness. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep each night and expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can during the winter months. Take walks outside or perform other outdoor routines on a daily basis to increase your light intake. You can also swap out your lights at home, and at your office, for full spectrum lightbulbs, which emulate natural sunlight.

How to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you have a history of SAD or feel you may be at risk of the disorder, make sure you get plenty of sunlight at the onset of winter as opposed to waiting until you feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder. Doing something you enjoy everyday.  Also, having a close social circle you frequently interact with and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen will help prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t have to dominate your winter. Once you recognize the symptoms of SAD, you can help prevent or treat it by following a few safe and simple guidelines. If you feel you may have a medical condition contributing to your symptoms, consult a physician immediately for proper treatment. With enough sunlight, a positive attitude and good health habits, you can typically alleviate seasonal affective disorder or banish it altogether and start enjoying the holiday season again.  Sources for “Season Affective Disorder:”

  • http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/counselingcenter/infosheets/winterblues.html
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9539254

Originally posted 2013-12-10 17:20:34.

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