Author: Dr. Rehan Lakhani, ND
Dr. Rehan is a Collingwood naturopath who provides evidence-based care to those struggling with IBS, brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, chronic pain, and all things related to your gut. Click here to schedule a free consult with our doctors.
So many of us have been there: the days begin to get darker, and the dread sets in. You make dinner in increasing darkness, and feel like you barely see the sunlight. Your mood begins to drop, and the aptly named SAD (seasonal affective disorder) sets in. Not everyone is able to go away to a sunny tropical destination, and many of us are only able to get away for a short vacation, so the winter sads will still impact us. Approximately 15% of Canadians experience mild symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in their lifetime, and 2-3% experience more severe cases.
Thankfully there are some habits that can help offset this mood dip that will support your body and make the winter months more bearable. Add the following simple practices to your weekly routine to stave off the winter blues.
1. Make sure you get enough protein in your diet
This is crucial to support your body in many things, but specifically in the production of the mood boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Animal based protein sources contain tryptophan, which is critical in the synthesis of serotonin. You can use sources like poultry, eggs, fish, and beef as good sources of protein in the winter months.
2. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (yes even on weekends!)
We all know how important sleep is for mood. Waking up and going to bed at the same time daily ensures your circadian rhythm follows a regular, predictable pattern. This in turn allows all of your other hormones to follow regular patterns as well, resulting in a more stable, predictable mood.
3. Get 10-30 minutes of daylight exposure upon waking – 10 minutes on sunny days, 30 on cloudy days
The sunlight should be direct (not through a window), and you should avoid wearing sunglasses to make sure the rays of light hit the backs of your eyes. Why? Once again our circadian rhythm heavily relies on daylight to regulate itself.
4. Consume a serving of the following at least 3 times per week salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (SMASH)
Omega 3s have been shown time and time again to positively affect mood. Consuming fish high in omega 3 fatty acids keeps inflammation in the body at bay, reducing the feelings of sadness, depression, and hopelessness.
5. Get vitamin D levels tested and supplement with vitamin D if needed and recommended by your practitioner
In Canada during the winter months we don’t get enough sun exposure to ensure adequate vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been shown to positively impact mood, and if you’re deficient in it, you should know! Ask your practitioner to run blood work testing for vitamin D and supplement if recommended.
If you think you may be suffering from SAD, please don’t hesitate to contact our office via the link below. Let’s get some testing done and implement a holistic treatment plan to get you feeling better.