Natural home remedies for seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
When some people hear about the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), their first reaction is, “Oh, that’s what my problem is!” Indeed, if the depths of winter have always seemed especially gloomy, it may be reassuring to know that you’re not the only one suffering the seasonal blues. If your mood turns so black that you feel like you can’t function normally, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor or a therapist. But if your symptoms are mild, the remedies below can help light up your life.
- Do everything you can to increase the amount of natural light that comes into your home. Keep curtains and blinds open. If tree branches block your windows, trim them back. For a room that’s dim, consider having a skylight installed, especially if it’s the kitchen or a living area where you spend a lot of time.
- On sunny winter days, take walks outdoors. Even if winter light doesn’t have midsummer intensity, a dose of real sun is far more effective than indoor bulbs. In fact, one study showed that an hour’s walk in winter sunlight was as effective at reducing SAD symptoms as two and a half hours walking under bright artificial light.
- Plan your longest vacation during the winter months, and get away to a warm, sunny climate if at all possible. Just one or two weeks of escape from winter gloom can provide welcome relief from SAD symptoms.
Join a gym or strap on skis
- While research shows that exercise helps relieve depression, it’s hard to get motivated in the winter. If you join a health club and set up a regular time to go, you’re more likely to get the exercise you need to boost your mood.
- Better yet, adopt a winter sport. Obviously, you’re a lot more likely to get outdoors if there are things you enjoy doing, even when the weather is chilly. If you haven’t explored winter sports before, consider ice-skating, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Even on grey days, you’ll manage to soak up some sunshine if you’re outdoors exercising.
Try herbal remedies
- To help lift your mood, take 40 to 60 drops of tincture of St. John’s wort in a glass of cold water three times a day. Once called “God’s grace” or “the blessed herb,” this home remedy now has a venerable reputation as a mild antidepressant. Within the last 20 years, studies have shown that one of its components indirectly helps to increase the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin. One drawback of St. John’s wort, however, is that it increases skin sensitivity. When you’re taking it, be sure to slather on sunscreen before you head outdoors. (Talk to your doctor about any herbal supplements you wish to take as they may interfere with other medications.)
Other mood boosters
- Take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains vitamin B6, thiamin, and folic acid. Studies have shown that all of these B vitamins can benefit mood.
- Don’t overdo cookies, candy, and other sugary foods. That refined sugar may give you an initial lift, but afterward your energy plummets and so will your mood. Opt for protein-dense meals that can help increase alertness—an egg-white omelet for breakfast, for instance, with a chicken-breast sandwich for lunch.
- Tell your family and friends about your SAD, and enlist their support. If they’re aware that you’re more susceptible to blue moods on dark days, they can help plan activities.
- To prevent mood swings, stay away from alcohol. A drink or two might help dispel anxiety or relieve stress for a short while. But because alcohol is a depressant, your mood plummets when the buzz wears off.
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