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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Woman with belly decorations

Most people will feel low, down and depressed, mainly in Winter...

Often reffered to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), feeling low in the darker winter months is a real thing that affects the majority of us, especially here in the UK. A recent study found that 1 in 3 people in the UK suffers from SAD. Things aren't helped with the cold blustery weather, not to mention the almost constant miserable rainy weather, especially up here in Manchester (NW England).

There are many reasons which contribute to the effects of SAD. One thing in particular are the shorter daylight hours. This has a hormonal effect on the body, where we produce more melatonin. Melatonin is our sleep hormone which helps us get to sleep. Some people even supplement with this when they have problems trying to get to sleep at night. Higher levels of this melatonin in general, particularly in the darker winter months can leave us feeling more tired, lethargy and cause symptoms of depression.

A SAD Light can help reduce the effects of SAD/Winter Blues

You can buy a SAD from many places online, including Amazon, eBay, and some select shops and lightning stores. I myself have used one, and continue to use one. I personally find it helps me concentrate more, and keeps me wake when I want to be, most probably due to light having a hormonal effect on the body which reduces melatonin (I also have a smart bulb in my top bedroom light that switches on 10 minutes before my alarm to help be wake up far easier, often before my alarms).

A great temporary solution is to take a short winter sun holiday break to reduce SAD and feel better in yourself, especially with a break from work. The reason I say temporary however is that surveys have shown that those who go someplace bright, hot and warm, will often find the symptoms of SAD go away, but then soon return once back from your holiday, when your body gets used to the reduce daylight hours again. Don't let that stop you booking a winter break though, who wouldn't be happier having that to look forward to! Even a weekend trip down to the South of the UK can help to some degree.

Supplementing with Vitamin D3 can help!

Vitamin D3 can help us feel happier and elevate our mood. Vitamin D3 also helps fight depression & anxiety, helps fight disease, strengthens our bones and reduces our risk of cancer and diabetes, just to mention just a few benefits.

In fact Vitamin D3, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, isn't really a vitamin at all. It's actually a steroid hormone, also known as a pro hormone which only gets produced when sunlight hits our skin, and indirectly enters our eyes (never look at the sun directly). You can also find Vitamin D in the form of D2 in oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks, along with many fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

The optimum times to be out in the sun are between 11am-2pm for the highest production of Vitamin D3. Just be sure to wear the appropriate sun protection factor for your skin type if spending prolonged time in the sun. Most people only need exposure for around 20-30 minutes a day during thee above peak mid day times. Vitamin D3 can also be produced by the light that reaches us through the clouds, just not in the same quantity as direct sunlight, so try and get outside more.

A survey by the NHS showed that 1 in 4 UK adults were deficient in Vitamin D3. The UK Government has issued public health advice stating that everyone should consider taking a Vitamin D3 supplement in Autumm and Winter. The recommended intake for Vitamin D3 is 400IU-600IU oer day. Children should aim for 400IU all year round. I personally supplement with Vitamin D3 every day, which keeps my mood elevated all day long, compared to whenever I go without. Look out for Vitamin D3 with K2, as Vitamin K2 is required by the body in order to utilise Vitamin D3.

It should be noted that some people take Vitamin D3 in much higher doses, especially those who are deficient, in doses as high as 2,000IU - 4,000IU or more per day, with some studies linking Vitamin D3 in assisting weight loss.

Are you deficient in Vitamin D?

Other ways to combat SAD / Winter Blues...

Laugh more, and elevate your mood by watching comedy films and stand-up comedians. Check out hundreds from streaming companies such as Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Prime, or visit your local entertainment shop, online store or browse comedies in your latest TV Magazine.

Do something you love, whether it be a hobby that you enjoy, visiting places you like to go, reading, or search for a new hobby idea. Something you enjoy that doesn't involve the day to day routine of work, sleep or anything which causes stress. Relax more, whether it be taking time to make yourself comfortable to zone out, listen to your favourite music, watch TV or a film, or even consider classes in Yoga, Pilates or mindful meditation. Get good QUALITY sleep, and enough of it, and ask yourself whether you are getting the recommended 8-9 hours a night. If you don't get that much, how can you increase it? Go to bed earlier and prioritise sleep over work or even TV. Improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your stresses, not eating a big meal within 2 hours of sleep, not drinking too much fluids before bed, not using electronic devices up to an hour before bed, making your bedroom as dark as possible (increases melatonin, mentioned earlier) and keeping your bedroom cool, so your body temperature can cool to normal. Also check out my SLEEP Article in my blog for more information.

Reduce your stress, by writing down at least 10 things that are work related that stress you out, and at least another 10 things that stress you out that are nothing to do with work. Acknowledging, seeing and recognising your stresses will help you reduce your stress first of all. Next look at each one in turn and write down a possible solution to either eliminate that stress all together, or write down the first steppingstone thing you can do to reduce that stress. Even if you cut all your stresses down by half, you will be much better at managing your existing stresses, and you will feel much happier in yourself. Stress will make us less happy, and the more stresses we have, the harder it will be to handle, and the less happy we will be.

Spend more time with loving friends and family, as these are the people who will always have your back, and cheer you up whenever you are feeling sad. Avoid spending too much time alone, or caught up in endless work which will still be there no matter how many endless hours you put in to it. Consider also making new friends and meeting new people through local clubs, societies and social events (bingo, pub quizzes, volunteering, etc). If you have a very busy schedule, actually schedule in some time which is YOUR time to do whatever you want which isnt work.

Become more physically active, as exercise will make you happier not only through the production of endorphins, your feel good hormone, but also as you will feel fitter and have more energy, become stronger, and get into better shape than you currently are. It will also help you get out more and help you get into a better routine, not to mention reduce stress levels and help regulate and improve your sleep.


Supplement Disclaimer

Always do your own research on supplements and make an informed decision before taking. Always read the label and speak with your doctor first if you are unsure. If you are on any medication, speak to your GP or Pharmacist for information on possible interactions with your medication.


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