Check out this Coaching with Kerry segment for more information:
Are you one of more than half a million Americans trying to fight the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? I was and it sucks. It is a real thing and it sucks even more if you live in places like good ol’ Green Bay, Wisconsin where winters are long and the sun shines sparingly.
People who experience SAD have less sunlight exposure which leads to changes in the way the brain responds chemically. Your biological clock gets thrown off when there is less daylight. Less sunlight can lead to a drop in serotonin levels which is linked to our mood. It also can throw melatonin levels off which play a role in our sleep and mood patterns.
If you have it, you may experience these symptoms:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
The good news is that this can totally be combatted. I know it because I have kicked the crap out of it. I happened to go off all my happy pills during the dead of winter a few years ago so I was very proactive in fighting off SAD. It takes work but it is all good work! I have incorporated the following into my daily routine:
Make the Sunrise
Ditch the alarm clock and get a rise and shine light! These things are awesome!!! Instead of an annoying alarm clock waking you up, a light goes on gradually to mimic a natural sunrise. It’s glorious! Your body wakes naturally and the light helps align circadian rhythms – which are our normal sleeping and waking patterns. I love this light from Verilux because it not only helps you wake up, it also helps you naturally fall asleep as well. You can program it to simulate the sun setting and the sun rising. The light fades out as you fall asleep and increases as you wake. You can also choose from different soothing sounds like ocean waves, a running streams, or birds chirping. This light has made such a difference in our lives. We no longer dread the dark, cold mornings. My husband and I are sleeping more soundly and waking up more refreshed and energized!!
Add Vitamin D
I knew less daylight meant lower vitamin D levels, which can contribute to depression. People told me to take vitamin D but I have a huge problem with taking vitamins for the sake of taking them. How do people know how much to take? What if I don’t need them? I went and had my levels checked by my physician and it turned out I was significantly deficit in Vitamin D. I highly recommend seeing a physician so you know exactly how much to take.
You know how the sunshine always seems to make us happier? If the sun isn’t out, create your own with a Happy Light! I sit in front of it for 20 minutes in the morning while I have my morning coffee. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light, which in turn gets those happy brain chemicals going. It’s amazing what 20 minutes can do. I have found the Happylight Liberty 10k from Verilux to be the best yet as it provides the highest recommended output – which is up to 10,000 LUX. (Do not use longer than the suggested time as it can cause agitation, mania, and other side effects. Consult your physician before adding to regime).
Be Mindful of What You Eat
Serotonin is the neurotransmitter (chemical signal) linked to our mood. Low levels of serotonin can mean low mood. 95% of serotonin is actually in our gut, so if you want to increase your serotonin levels start with what you eat first. I started by eliminating “junk” or processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates. I ate foods rich in tryptophan, which is an amino acid that converts to serotonin. I try to eat at least one food rich in tryptophan at every meal. Those include avocados, cottage cheese, dark chocolate, eggs, oats, pork, turkey, and wild oats. Click here for a complete list:
Never go a day without moving your body! I don’t care if it is for 5 minutes or 60 minutes. When you exercise, (I prefer the term “move”), your body releases endorphins which is a natural anti-depressant. Do not skip out on this! I would even bundle up and go out in the snow. Yes it is cold but I always felt better. Stand up and do jumping jacks, jog in place if you have to, it doesn’t matter just move your body. Your body is energy, and energy needs to move.
This was a lifesaver! So my dad purchased one of these while battling cancer because it does wonders with releasing toxins from the body. It turns out infrared saunas kick the crap out of SAD as well. If you consider I was spending about $300/month on medications, the cost for an infrared was not that bad. And all you have to do is plug it in. No water, steam, nothing. They come in all sizes and in my opinion are a wellness must-have. Here is a great article about how infrared saunas help with SAD:
(It is recommended that you talk to your doctor before adding light therapy to your regime)