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Some natural remedies for seasonal depression

Here are 9 tips for managing your seasonal sadness.

If you’ve ever felt a little down during those winter months when it seems to get dark at lunchtime, you’re not alone. Seasonal affective disorder, also known (fittingly) as SAD, is a real condition related to this change in season and sunlight. When the time change makes us ‘fall back’, let’s make sure our health and happiness don’t slip as well. While some cases of SAD do require medical attention, there are some simple (and of course, natural) remedies you can do at home to get you back to your sunshiney self in no time. Here are 9 tips for managing your seasonal sadness.

1. Let There Be Light

Seasonal depression rarely occurs in people living close to the equator, and is often found farther from it. So, it’s likely that the main cause is related to sunlight and circadian rhythms. If you live somewhere with only a small window of daylight each day, and it doesn’t include much sunshine, you’re more likely to experience SAD.

The most studied method for treating SAD is using a light box. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, does exactly as it sounds—emitting a full-spectrum light to simulate sunlight. This works great for people who live in winter climates that don’t give very much sunshine at all. When people with SAD sit in front of a light box for 30 minutes per day, their SAD symptoms improve in about 80% of cases.

Light therapy works by stimulating our retinas, which sends messages to the hypothalamus in our brain to control our circadian rhythms. But, the same rules apply to the light box as to the sun: don’t look directly at it! Use your light therapy time to catch up on reading, podcasts, or try an open-eyed meditation. Just don’t take a nap, as the benefits are channeled through your eyes.

2. Simple Sunshine Hack

If you’re one of the lucky ones who live where the sun still shines in the winter, natural sunlight will provide the same benefits as light therapy. When we go outside and absorb the sun’s radiance first thing in the morning, we’re telling our bodies that it’s time to wake up and start the day.

Our circadian rhythms are controlled by melatonin, and melatonin production is impacted by serotonin, our happy hormone. Surprisingly, the things we do first thing in the morning can help us sleep better at night. That sunshine in your eyes in the A.M. will lead to an increase in cortisol production in the morning (waking us up!) and an increase in melatonin production at night (helping us sleep!). Simply put, the more sunshine we get, the better we sleep and the happier we are.

sunshine hack

3. Get Moving

Yet another benefit of exercise to add to the list! Physical activity, especially if it’s outside, can help improve symptoms of SAD and improve your mood. Exercise has been well-studied for its benefits with helping other forms of depression, by releasing those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. If you exercise while getting sunlight, you’re getting a two-fer in treating your SAD.

4. Vitamin D-Up

Some researchers think that a reduction in vitamin D during the winter may be a cause of seasonal depression. It’s possible, since the majority of our vitamin D comes from sunlight, not diet. You may be wondering if light therapy can help with vitamin D levels, and the answer is likely no. Again, you can buy a specialized “vitamin D lamp”, as most light boxes filter out UV light, which is what our skin needs to produce vitamin D in our bodies.

But if you want to get vitamin D from natural sunshine, your best bet is to stalk the sunshiney sidewalks and do it at the brightest part of the day; this is typically between noon and 3 p.m. If your state is lacking in sunshine, a vitamin D supplement of 600 to 800 IU international units (IU) per day can help.

Just don’t overdo it, studies have shown that taking too much vitamin D via supplements can create health risks and limit its benefits. So, if you're taking vitamin D supplements, the key message is moderation.

5. Make Fish Oil Your Friend

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in fatty fish and algae, have been shown to improve mood. Some studies have shown that people who take fish oil supplements have fewer symptoms of depression. If you’re not a salmon, tuna, swordfish, or general sushi enthusiast, try starting with a fish oil supplement of 1 to 2 grams per day.

6. Major in Mindfulness

We’ve touted the benefits of meditation and yoga before, and we’re not stopping now! Chronic stress can impact both your sleep and happiness, so it’s a good idea to practice certain mindfulness techniques. You don’t have to go it alone, there are plenty of helpful tools our there to guide you, especially if you’re a beginner.

The Headspace app is a simple meditation guide, right in your pocket, that can not only help you let go of stress, it can guide you towards getting a better night’s rest. If meditation sounds daunting, even deep breathing for 1 minute at a time can help you reap the rewards. Bonus points if you spend some time journaling in the morning, either out in the sunshine or in front of your light box!


7. Sleep Under a Weighted Blanket

We’re obviously a bit biased about this one, but there is real science around the benefits of weighted blankets, especially when it comes to the key hormones that help regulate your sleep patterns, which are easily disrupted when SAD season rolls around.

As serotonin levels drop during these longer days of darkness, the benefits of weighted blankets include increased serotonin levels, and a reduction of cortisol during the night.

The Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) you get from weighted blankets brings about a calming feeling by triggering your body’s natural pressure points. When our bodies relax and tension eases, we not only feel good, but we tend to get better, deeper sleep, which is crucial to staying happy and healthy. And it can certainly help you pop up from bed a bit easier on those cold, dark mornings.

Our cozy, chunky-knit Cotton Napper is the perfect bed (or couch) companion to help combat feeling down and out during the winter.

sleep with blanket

8. Treat Your Nose

There seems to be an essential oil for everything these days, and we’re all about it. A combination of an uplifting scent in the morning, like orange or grapefruit, and a relaxing scent in the evening (lookin’ at you, lavender!) can help to regulate your circadian rhythm by promoting regular sleep-wake times. Try an essential oil diffuser, like this one, or a handy little organic oil roll-on for a quick hit.

9. Use Those Vacation Days

While moving to the tropics may be a nice thought, it’s an unrealistic dream for many of us. Taking a short vacation is most likely the more practical option. If you’re able to ditch the snow and head to a warmer area for a few days, you can get a quick mood-lifter. Even a mini-vacation can help you to reduce stress, get more sleep, and maximize your sunshine. Bring on the serotonin; we’ll meet you at the beach!


Did you know?
Weighted blankets help your body produce more serotonin. Pro tip: Cuddle under your Napper while sitting in front of your light box, with a citrus essential oil diffusing nearby. Happiness awaits you!


• While seasonal affective disorder is a real wintertime affliction, there are many simple things to do to improve your mood.

• Using sunshine or light therapy is an immediate happiness helper; try it first thing in the morning to maximize its radiant benefits.

• Exercising, deep breathing, smart supplements of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, using a weighted blanket, and taking a trip to a tropical destination can all help turn your SAD back to GLAD!


Did you know?
Weighted blankets help your body produce more serotonin. Pro tip: Cuddle under your Napper while sitting in front of your light box, with a citrus essential oil diffusing nearby. Happiness awaits you!


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