Seasonal AffectiveDisorder (SAD) is an acute depression that most commonly occurs during the late Fall/Winter months as the days become shorter with less sunlight. Serotonin, one of the feel good chemicals in the brain drops when there’s less sunlight because serotonin is used in the brain to produce melatonin the chemical that makes you sleepy therefore levels of serotonin drop. SAD is thought to be a form of major depression and has similar symptoms such as loss of energy, change in appetite, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness.
If you notice these symptoms occurring during this time of year you may be experiencing SAD. Here are some natural ways to increase your serotonin level and alleviate depression.
Get Social Support – share how you feel with trusted family and friends, show up for a social activity, email or phone someone, join a support group, book club, or take a class in something of interest where you will meet like minded people. Being with and around other people helps alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Exercise – I know when you feel low you probably don’t have the energy or motivation to exercise, but it doesn’t have to be a hard core time consuming routine. Simply making a commitment to walk around the block once a day can make a big difference in uplifting your energy and mood. Getting outside even if it’s cold and wet will invigorate and stimulate your senses. I recommend walking where you can see, hear, smell, and feel the natural environment. This can be a spiritual experience which uplifts and connects you with the Divine that dwells in all life.
Sleep - Try to normalize your sleep pattern by going to bed and getting up around the same time. This is very important for one’s physical and mental well-being. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake up multiple times in the night try an herbal sleep remedy like valerian, passion flower, hops or a combination of these herbs before bedtime. Create a bedtime ritual that tells your body/mind it’s time to wind down and go to sleep, and be sure to get up at the same time in the morning. If you do this for thirty days straight you will develop a positive habit and will feel better through out the day.
Healthy Diet – The foods and drinks we consume have a profound effect on our health and mental state. Start to notice how your body and mind feel after eating and drinking certain things. You might feel energized by sugar and caffeine at first but then comes the crash and you’re even more tired and irritable. Eat a whole foods diet that includes complex carbs, vitamin B, chromium, and omega 3 fatty acids (salmon,nuts, flax oil, etc.), and cut out refined sugars and excessive caffeine.
Self HelpTools - Do things that reduce stress and nurture your spirit such as: getting out in nature, listening to your favorite music, dancing, journaling, getting a message, taking a aromatherapy bath, watching a funny movie, playing with a pet, and working with your favorite yoga DVD. These can all be ways to increase your serotonin and uplift your mood.
Positive Self Talk – Talk nicely and encouraging to yourself. Notice when your inner critic is beating you up with negative self-talk and tell that part of your brain to knock it off. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, visualizations, affirmations, and prayers. This will help create a sense of calm and upliftment and change negative thinking patterns.
Counseling - If you can’t apply these strategies on your own get help from a professional counselor who can support and guide you.
Natural Treatments for Depression
Common symptoms of depression are feeling sad, irritable, lacking energy or motivation, feeling physically or emotionally weak, loss of pleasure in the activities and interests you usually enjoy, and feeling low self esteem and a sense of hopelessness. If you are experiencing two or more of these symptoms for one month or longer and haven’t been able to pull your self out of the slump you may be going through a period of clinical depression. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and how long this has been going on will determine the best course of treatment.
Research has shown that a combination of medication and talk therapy can be very effective in treating depression and for many people this is the best way to go, but for others the negative side effects of allopathic medicines can be hard to deal with or even intolerable. For some they prefer not to expose their bodies to the toxic effects of these chemicals and want to try a natural approach first. Here are some suggestions for natural ways to treat depression and start feeling better.
Exercise and Movement
Exercise is one of the most effective natural treatments for depression, it gets your circulation moving which has the effect of energizing your body and affects the same neurotransmitters in the brain that medication does elevating your mood. It is suggested 30-60 minutes a day of moderate exercise will lift your mood. If you are not use to doing regular exercise start out slow and choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. That way you will make consistent progress and stick with it. There are many ways to get in your daily exercise such as brisk walking, jogging or running, swimming or working out at the gym, taking a pilates, yoga or dance class, or working out to a video at home. Do what feels right and comfortable for you.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety which can exacerbate depression. mind-body relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation have been used to relieve symptoms of depression and to promote feelings of joy and well-being. You can learn these techniques by attending a yoga or meditation class, or watch some videos on You Tube for simple instructions.
Diet and Nutrition
Almost any nutritional deficiency can contribute to depression, so it is especially important to correct possible deficiencies of vitamin C, D, and the B vitamins. Other factors that can promote depression are food allergies, excess caffeine and sugar, and a rich, heavy, nutrient poor diet. It is important to eat a healthy whole foods diet and drink plenty of fresh clean water through out the day.
Natural Herbs and Supplements
There are herbs and dietary supplements you can try which are natural treatments for mild to moderate depression. If you are already taking a prescription antidepressant or other medication you should know these herbs and supplements could interfere with your medication, so it is best to consult with your doctor before adding these to your routine.
St John’s Wort – is an extract from a wild shrub and has been used as an herbal treatment for depression for hundreds of years. It is best for mild-moderate depression and has not been as effective for major depression. Typical dosage: 900 milligrams of capsules standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin per day in divided doses with meals, or ¼ to 1 teaspoon of tincture three times per day. Caution: St John’s Wort may cause mild stomach upset, rashes, restlessness, insomnia, or sensitivity to sun exposure.
Ginko Biloba – is an herb which has been shown to have positive effects on brain function and can be exceptionally helpful in treating depression. Typical dosage: 40 to 60 milligrams of standardized extract capsules three times per day, or ¼ to ½ of tincture three times per day.
Kava Kava – is an herb which can alleviate the anxiety that accompanies depression without causing sedation or decrease in mental functioning. Scientific studies of kava kava actually show that it may improve memory and mental function. Typical dosage: up to six 400 to 500 milligram capsules per day, or 15 to 30 drops of tincture up to three times per day.
SAMe – is a synthetic supplement that is made from naturally occurring proteins in the body and has been hailed as a natural antidepressant. Typical dosage: 200 to1,200 milligrams per day.
5-HPT (5 –Hydroxy-Tryptophan) – is an amino acid that increases serotonin levels in the brain. Typical dosage: 50-300 milligrams per day.
In counseling we will address the underlying issues that may be contributing to your depression. These can be related to childhood experiences and traumas or recent events in your life. When we repress our feelings and emotions they stay stuck in our minds and bodies creating illness. The therapeutic process will help you express feelings of sadness, fear, disappointment and anger. You will be able to release pent up negative thoughts and feelings and learn positive coping skills thus changing your life experience from the inside out. We will also address your physical and spiritual needs which are essential components that contribute to a sense of happiness and well being.
Start your journey of healing and feeling better, call or email me today.