Have you noticed the nights drawing in and the autumn chill in the air? For those who are prone to the winter blues, autumn often marks the beginning of changes in appetite, mood and energy levels. Seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D) – myth or reality? Most definitely reality, so if you find yourself feeling low, depressed, lacking energy, motivation and/or eating excessively read on for some helpful advice…
As the nights begin to draw in we are exposed to less daylight. For some this is just part of the natural seasonal change and for others it symbolises the beginning of difficult times ahead over autumn and winter. Primarily hampered by feelings of very low mood, symptoms often include: depression, over-sleeping, lethargy, loss of libido, over-eating (particularly carbohydrates). S.A.D was reported back in the 1980s although it has been acknowledged for over 2000 years. Men, women and children can all be affected by S.A.D, although women and individuals with a history of depression are more susceptible.
There are a number of theories on what causes S.A.D. It is thought that bright light entering the eyes makes a difference to brain chemistry by stimulating nerve centres that control mood and circadian rhythms. Also, the hormone melatonin is produced in greater amounts during the winter; as it is only produced at night, this contributes to an increased desire to sleep. Bright light suppresses melatonin as well as increasing serotonin, which is a good mood neurotransmitter in the brain. There are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes you can also implement to reduce the effects of S.A.D and make the dark evenings more tolerable.
- Increase sources of omega 3 essential fats, for brain improved function and balanced mood eg oily fish, flax seeds
- Reduce alcohol to minimum as it is a depressant
- Eat slow-release carbohydrates to keep metabolism and mood more stable, eg oats, brown rice, wholemeal pasta
- Eat foods that help produce serotonin such as fish, chicken, turkey, beans and avocado
- Avoid sugary foods that will send your moods yo-yoing
- Avoid stimulants such as tea and coffee
- Take regular exercise to help release good mood endorphins eg www.sussexbootcamps.co.uk
- Go outside at lunchtimes daily, the brightest time of day
- Take winter holidays to warm sunny places
- Invest in a light box to supply a daily fix of light through the darker months, see www.lumie.com
Always consult your GP before embarking on any major changes if you think you may be suffering from S.A.D.
For more info contact: S.A.D Association. PO Box 989, Steyning, BN44 3HG. www.sada.org.uk