Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects more than 10 million Americans each year. However, this number doesn’t include those of us who might not have true SAD, but still experience lower moods as the daylight hours shorten, the nights get longer, and the weather becomes colder. These mood changes don’t just put a damper on our happiness and our emotions, but SAD may also contribute to changes in your immune system. The following strategies — combining both lifestyle interventions and diet/supplement tips — will boost your mood and raise your levels of joy this fall and through the winter.
What is SAD?
“Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression or winter depression,” explains the American Psychiatric Association. “About 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40 percent of the year. It is more common among women than men.”
The association reports that “SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter.”
The National Institute of Mental Health explains it further. “In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression,” notes the institute. Some may actually have the reverse experience. “Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD or summer depression and is less common,” the institute adds.
Whatever the cause of your mood changes, here’s how to beat SAD and elevate your mood.
4 Mood Boosters to Help You Overcome SAD
1. Eat Fatty Fish
Fire up the oven! Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon and herring, are high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These healthy fats have been proven, over and over again in multiple studies, to help reduce depression and the risk of other mood disorders.
“People who eat a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, or take an omega 3 supplement, are less likely to experience depression,” explains brain health researchers at Heights. “Numerous studies have found a correlation between higher levels of omega 3s and lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and mental decline in aging adults.”
2. Get Into the Sun
When daylight hours shorten, it’s even more important to expose yourself to the sun’s healing light. Just 10 minutes of sun exposure a day triggers the release of feel-good hormones (i.e. endorphins) such as serotonin. Sunlight is also critical for the production of vitamin D, a nutrient also linked to balanced mood and emotions.
3. Take a Probiotic Supplement
While serotonin is often thought of as a brain chemical, the bacteria in your gut also help produce a lot of your body’s serotonin levels. If you aren’t already taking a probiotic supplement, the fall and winter is a great time to start.
Plus, probiotics help to boost your immune system, making them a perfect supplement pairing for well-researched immune boosters like BioPro-Plus 500.
4. Inhale Happiness with Aromatherapy
If you have SAD, try breathing away your negative mood through aromatherapy.
“Aromatherapy is the use of organic compounds to improve your mood, mental state, or health,” explains Healthline. “Experts aren’t sure how aromatherapy works. Chemicals in essential oils might trigger smell receptors in your nose that send messages to the part of your brain that controls your mood. […] For example, a review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that aromatherapy might help relieve depressive symptoms.”
Specific scents or essential oils that may help to reduce or prevent SAD include:
Combine these four strategies and lift your spirits while saying goodbye to the winter blues and SAD!