Don't be SAD this winter!

A lot of us are affected by the change in seasons, whether that be a slight lowering of mood or energy levels as it gets colder and darker or a loss of motivation as there is no more summer holiday to look forward to. For some people this can develop into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is also known as “winter depression” and can include symptoms such as depression, cravings for carbs, poor sleep, weight gain and lack of energy.

The specific cause of SAD is currently unknown but there are some factors that can leave you more susceptible to developing it, one of the major factors being your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) which plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, memory and digestive system. In low light, serotonin is reduced and some people are more sensitive to these changes which makes them more likely to suffer from SAD.

You can improve your symptoms naturally by increasing serotonin production in the following ways:

Light therapy boxes – These mimic sunshine and can stimulate your body’s circadian rhythm – use for 30 minutes to an hour each day.

Get outside – Going for a walk for at least 30 minutes 3 times a week can help boost your serotonin levels as well as producing endorphins – your happy hormones. It can also help towards reducing weight gain.

Try a fish oil supplement – Fish oils are known for improving brain activity and have been beneficial in studies relating to depression.

Avoid refined carbs– Refined carbohydrates break down quickly in the body and turn to sugar, causing swings in energy levels. Swap for wholegrain instead which take longer to break down and provide a steady release of energy.

Include a sleep routine – switch off electronics at least an hour before bed and turn your mobile phone on flight mode while you sleep. These are stimulating for your brain and your sleep hormones when you should be winding down. Instead you could try having a relaxing bath, reading a book or doing some meditation to wind down before sleep.