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Coping with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Have you ever notices as the seasons change, and we move further away from Summer that sometimes it affects your moods & ability to be motivated?

  • Dark / gloomy days can leave you feeling lethargic & tired.

  • Cold & wet days – you no longer want to be outside & it has hard to be motivated to do the things that you need to do.

  • Sometimes it may even be difficult to get up for work.

  • You may even feel depressed................

There is a logical & scientific reason for this: Insufficient exposure to sunlight has been associated with low levels of melatonin and serotonin, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and sleep disturbance.

Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The symptoms of SAD occur cyclically with a return of symptoms each year during the winter months. These symptoms tend to be the atypical symptoms of depression, including:

  • increased sleep;

  • increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings;

  • weight gain;

  • irritability;

  • interpersonal difficulties (especially rejection sensitivity), and

  • a heavy, leaden feeling in the arms or legs.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • SAD is believed to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Light entering through the eyes influences this rhythm.

  • When it is dark, the pineal gland produces a substance called melatonin which is responsible for the drowsiness we feel each day after dusk.

  • Light entering the eyes at dawn shuts off the production of melatonin.

  • During the shorter days of winter, when people may rise before dawn or not leave their offices until after sunset, these normal rhythms may become disrupted, producing the symptoms of SAD.

  • There is also evidence linking SAD to a reduced amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is the feel-good substance that is increased by antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This decrease in serotonin production may be responsible for many of the symptoms of SAD, such as depression and carbohydrate cravings.

So how can I help myself to alleviate the symptoms of SAD?

There are some very simple techniques that you can try to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

  • Go outside into the daylight for at least 20 minutes per day. This will help to increase your levels of serotonin.

  • Sit outside in the morning light for 20 – 30 minutes.

  • Where possible do not wear sunglasses while you are outside – as it is beneficial to have the direct sunlight on the retina’s of the eyes. (Do keep your eyes closed while specifically doing this exercise for SAD.)

  • Do not use sunscreen, or sunglasses, allow your body to absorb positive nutrients from the sun. NOTE: Lack of sunglasses & not using sunscreen may be challenging if you live in the Southern Hemisphere – please use caution on bright light & warm temperature days..

  • Many people have noticed positive improvements in the emotional wellbeing after spending a few minutes each day in the sun / light.

Other options to improve serotonin levels include:

Meditation – find a quiet spot outside each day & imagine yourself in your “peaceful safe place.”

  • A quiet spot like:

  • The beach:

  • A park:

  • The mountains:

  • A stream are all very good places to meditate & spend some relaxing time.

Engaging in a favourite hobby is a type of meditation that will also help you to relax &raise serotonin deficiency levels.

  • Listening to soothing music.

See a Kinesiologist& they will offer you advise & tools to help you to relax & de-stress & cope with darker months better more comfortably.

This information has been provided for personal use & information purposes only. If symptoms persist please consult your medical practitioner.

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