Protect yourself from the winter blues
Christmas is a time of laughter, happiness, and fun and celebration It is the merry season. However, can you imagine as the winter days get shorter and darker your mood becomes darker and darker?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience during the winter season. Seasonal affective disorder is also called the winter blues. It can affect people in the winter months, when days are shorter and darker. It is a recognised medical condition and is reported to affect 2 million people in the UK and Ireland and over 12 Million people across Northern Europe.
- Fatigue, low energy
- Oversleeping (normal for some people),
- Craving carbohydrate foods (for energy)
- Weight gain
“It is like living in a black cloud. You struggle to cope with life, work and everyday tasks”.
So what is going on?
It appears that the shorter daylight hours of winter and a lack of exposure to sunlight appear to disrupt our biological clock. For example,
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. Its production is stimulated by a lack of sunlight. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase.
Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and our sleep patterns. Serotonin levels rise when you’re exposed to sunlight.
SAD can result from an overproduction of melatonin during the long winter nights and abnormally low levels of serotonin in winter due to a lack of sunlight exposure. Low levels of serotonin may be a significant cause of depression.
Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin, studies suggest that a deficiency in vitamin D may contribute to winter depression.
4 simple lifestyle tools that will help you beat the winter blues
- Spend as much time as possible outdoors. In the winter months we tend to go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. As a result we get very little exposure to natural sunlight. Outdoor exercise such as walking will expose you to sunlight. Walk your dog or with a friend to add a social aspect. Research suggests that moderate exercise can play a significant role in the management of depression; it improves general health and can improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise may also increase blood flow to the brain, further relieving depression. Exercise reduces stress and releases endorphin and exposes you to Vitamin D.
- Relax more: Chronic stress releases stress hormones such as cortisol. Elevated cortisol secretion can affect serotonin production. Relax more, do thing that you enjoy (May go for a walk with a friend).
- Eat less refined carbohydrates and sugar: A diet high in sugars and refined foods can cause a rapid rise in blood and a significant dip in blood sugar. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for our brains.Our brains are sensitive to blood glucose imbalances. Blood glucose imbalances can be associated with depression. Balanced blood sugar can help manage our energy levels, our mood, carbohydrate craving and prevent weight gain. Eat more wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables. They are digested slowly and gradually increase blood sugar levels.
- Eat plenty of turkey sandwiches: Turkey is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid used to make serotonin.