There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it’s not what you think. Keep reading to learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy lifestyle tips.
Winter can be dreary. It’s only just fall and it’s already getting dark sooner. The leaves are starting to change colors and the sky seems to be gray a bit more often. (Although it’s possible part of that is due to the insane amount of rain we’ve had lately.) As the weather cools off we also find ourselves stuck indoors more than we’d like. This in turn can lead to those dreaded winter blues.
This year I’m determined to keep my spirits up and skirt seasonal depression all together. I’d like to say I’m going to be one of those ridiculously happy people who’s always positive and never stops smiling – but that will seriously never happen.
Resting bitch face aside, I tend to get emotionally involved in most things I do. I scream, cry and clap at television shows. I get that weird bizarro paranoia that something is wrong or I’m gonna screw up somehow when my monthly cycle hits. And the current state of our political circus leaves me terrified even when I avoid the news and filter my social news feed to hide the drama.
With over forty winters under my belt I’m no stranger to seasonal depression. Managing fibro on top of that is no easy feat. So I completely understand the challenges you face when you get those winter blues. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can swallow to send your seasonal depression packing. Nutritionally, however, there are options that can help improve your symptoms as well as potentially prevent the occurence of seasonal depression all together. There are also actions you can take to get your head back in the game and off those dismal sidelines that trap you in an unhealthy emotional cycle.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression, also now called seasonal affective disorder or SAD for short, can strike at any time of the year – not just fall and winter. While most common during the fall and winter months, the symptoms of seasonal depression are much the same regardless of when it occurs. Symptoms include feelings of depression, trouble sleeping, low energy or fatigue, changes in weight or appetite, difficulty concentrating, agitation or anxiety and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
What Causes Seasonal Depression?
There is no clear cause for seasonal depression. However, it is widely believed that there are three main factors that can lead to seasonal depression. This includes changes in your biological clock caused by a decrease in sunlight. The reduced levels of sunlight during both fall and winter are then believed to result in a drop in serotonin levels in the brain. It can also cause changes in melatonin levels. This can disrupt sleep cycles and affect mood.
How Can I Reduce My Chances of Developing Seasonal Depression?
Much of modern Western medicine seems to focus on treating the symptoms of depression rather than the cause. (A sad result of big pharma.) This in turn leads to an endless cycle, riddled with side effects, and no real recovery. (Much like my struggle to find natural treatment options for fibromyalgia.) The good news is, you don’t have to take anti-depression drugs, such as SSRI’s which increase levels of serotonin in the brain, to manage your seasonal depression. In fact, it’s possible you can prevent your seasonal depression completely by taking steps to improve your gut health.
Rectifying my own gut health has been paramount in both my physical and emotional recovery. I spent a good part of my adult life struggling with depression. Now that I no longer struggle with depression like I used to, I am completely sold on treating health issues through nutrition as a first step.
The Gut-Brain Axis
It’s widely believed that the gut-brain axis has an impact on both our emotional health and physical health. Not only does the gut-brain axis help regulate our bodies, it also maintains homeostasis through the biochemical signaling that takes place between our gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system. Additionally, the gut-brain axis also refers to the role that our gut flora plays in our bodies. This interplay is referred to the “microbiome–gut–brain axis” which explicitly includes the role of gut flora in the biochemical signaling events that take place between our gastrointestinal tract and our central nervous system. (Source.)
A diet that primarily consists of high fat/low fiber foods decreases the gut microbiome diversity in our bodies, disrupting the gut-brain axis. When this happens, our bodies become more vulnerable to physical illnesses. Recent studies have also indicated that poor gut health affects our emotional health as well. Therefore, not only does poor gut health cause depression, it can also lead to worsening depression. By eating a healthy diet that supports gut health, you can also help support your emotional well being.
How Probiotics Can Help
Probiotics offer an easy way to help improve and restore gut flora in our bodies and thus improve our gut health. These live microorganisms help to improve diversity and increase healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and kombucha. However, you can also purchase probiotics as an easy to take nutritional supplement in pill form.
Recent medical studies have offered compelling evidence that probiotics can also help alleviate depression. (Source.) Therefore, I highly recommend consuming probiotics to help prevent seasonal depression or to help improve symptoms.
When purchasing probiotics it’s important to buy probiotics that will survive the trip from your gut to the intestinal tract. So be sure to research any brands you’d like to try before making a purchase.
I personally recommend Love Bug Here’s The Skinny Daily Probiotics as they contain not only probiotics, but also prebiotics. Prebiotics are a natural fiber that feeds probiotics. Here’s The Skinny Daily Probiotics contain eight targeted strains of beneficial probiotics to help aid in digestion, reboot your metabolism, and elevate energy levels and mood. In addition, this product also combats unwanted digestive issues like bloating, constipation and leaky gut by rebalancing your microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Each tablet has 10 billion CFU and uses a patented time-release delivery technology, which protects the probiotics from stomach acid and releases them gradually, making them 15 times more effective than standard capsules.
What Are Other Ways I Tackle Seasonal Depression?
In addition to supplementing your diet with probiotics, there are also other natural ways that you can help prevent or improve your seasonal depression.
You’ve probably been hearing a lot of buzz about adaptogens lately. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, ginseng, mushrooms, milk thistle, gotu kola and holy basil are believed to support overall health and wellness. They work as non-specific remedies that increase our bodies resistance to a broad spectrum of harmful factors of different physical, chemical and biological natures. They are also believed to help our bodies adapt and respond better to stress. By incorporating adaptogens into your daily diet you can further support your emotional health.
CBD oil is another example of an adaptogen. It has been shown to help support our mood, sleep, appetite and hormone regulation. In addition it can also reduce pain and boost immune response. Further studies have also indicated that CBD oil, in addition to helping with depression, also has numerous other medical indications including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, cancer and chronic pain. My own personal experience with CBD oil is that it has greatly improved not just my fibromyalgia pain, but it has decreased my anxiety and improved my mood as well.
Exercise & Activity
Getting up and just doing something can be a challenge if you’re already depressed. However, by staying active prior to and during fall and winter, you can help prevent seasonal depression from taking hold. Studies have shown that by simply walking ten minutes a day outdoors, you can boost the levels of serotonin in your brain more so than if you were taking SSRI medication. While staying active does require a small commitment of your time, it will not only improve your mood but your physical health as well.
There are scores of studies that have shown that art has the power to heal. Not only is art a great way to express yourself – and a lot of fun! – it’s another natural alternative to big pharma medications. A powerful therapeutic tool, art and other creative activities have the ability to ease stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, it can also aid with communication challenges and help stop cognitive decline.
What’s so great about creativity, is that you don’t need to possess a natural talent in order to express yourself through the things you create. Anyone can draw, paint or knit. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy. So put together that photo album you’ve been putting off. Color a mandala or create a paper mobile. Anything that allows you to relax and have fun.
If you’re not sure where to start or the type of projects you’d like to do, give a DIY craft kit a try. Alternately, websites like Creativebug, offer many wonderful arts and crafts classes that you can access online from the comfort of your home. And, of course, you can also find a ton of great DIY ideas right here on Soap Deli News blog. From homemade soap recipes and bath and beauty DIY’s to DIY craft projects, a simple search will turn up years worth of inspirational projects and ideas.
As I create things for a living, one of my favorite ways to feel like I’m not working is to engage in group classes and projects with friends. Crafting with friends or in a class setting allows me the opportunity to make mistakes and just have fun. I also find that socializing is immensely helpful. So host a DIY nail polish night or a pumpkin painting party at your home. Or take a class at your local community center or art center. I guarantee you will feel better for having done so!
Have you ever suffered from seasonal depression? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to share natural remedies or activities that helped you beat your seasonal depression in the comments below.
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