Defeating the Winter Blues

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Defeating the Winter Blues

Can you improve your mood naturally?

Statistics reveal that four in ten people complain of feeling low and about one in ten suffer from depression. According to recent surveys the number of drugs prescribed for depression and related symptoms, are on the increase at an alarming rate.

Surveys amongst 22000 participants in the UK showed that 52 % feel lethargic and have a lack of enthusiasm most of the time while 42 % feel depressed. This is probably only the tip of the ice berg.

From time to time we may all experience symptoms that range from happiness to severe depression. Three times as many women will suffer and be diagnosed having depression than men. This is probably because women are more likely to ask for help.

Can winter increase the tendency for depression?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that happens during winter when you don’t get enough light because of shorter days. Some people are particularly prone to these winter blues or SAD. Shorter days effect people more.

The primary reasons for this:

  1.  Serotonin (Happy Hormone) levels drop partly since light stimulates the brain to manufacture serotonin and other brain chemicals.
  2. A lack of mood boosting nutrients due to poor eating habits
  3. Lower activity levels

Solving the problem: Stabilising moods

  1. As light directly effects the brain, it will control sleep and the time you wake up. In winter you wake up while it’s still dark. This is neither natural nor ideal.
    To counter act this, you can use a “dawn simulation alarm” that has got the full spectrum of sun light. This is a bed side light with a build- in dimmer and alarm clock. This alarm clock simulates the breaking of dawn. The clock is set to wake you up at a certain time, but the light will turn on and steadily increasing in intensity over a period of 20 minutes. If this doesn’t wake you up, the alarm will go off at the set time. Most people will be woken by the light with much more energy, alertness and a happy feeling.
  2. A deficiency of vitamin D may increase winter blues. Vitamin D is made by the skin if exposed to sunlight. Half an hour per day of direct exposure will provide about 15 mcg of Vitamin D. Oily fish will supply an additional 5 mcg. It is recommended that a multivitamin with Vitamin D3 is taken to supply a total of 30 mcg per day. A blood test to determine vitamin D Levels can be done and often the levels are so low that a supplement should be prescribed in higher dosages.
  3. Ensure that blood sugar levels are always stable during the day. Five to six small meals per day are vital. Include protein with all main meals, a small portion of low GI carbohydrates and lots of vegetables. The snacks can include a fruit and a handful of nuts/seeds. Eat fatty fish e.g. sardine, salmon, mackerel 3 times per week. Mood boosters would include tryptophan an amino acid found in cheese, oats, yogurt, egg, turkey and chicken which will boost serotonin levels. Enough tryptophan helps to curb carbohydrate cravings.
  4. High homocysteine levels may be an indicator to predict depression. There is growing evidence that some people are more prone to depression because they don’t “methylate” accurately. Methylation is a process that happens in the brain and body by turning chemicals into one another. Certain nutrients like folic acid, Vitamin B6, B 12 can receive or donate these methyl groups for the brain and body to function at an optimum level. People prone to depression normally have a weakness (Genetic defect) with methylation and therefore will greatly benefit from supplementation. Dark green vegetables are high in folic acid. Omega 3 fats are also converted by B vitamins into hormone type substances that increase the brains ability to produce serotonin and other vital chemicals.
  5. Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise at least five times per week, e.g. walking, can produce a considerable drop in depression.
  6. Essential oils mainly Bergamot, geranium, petitgrain or neroli oils can boost your mood.
  7. SAD (winter blues) may also be caused by the depletion of negative ions in the air due to winter winds. To be outside in nature, increases the negative ions that are good for us. The air near waterfalls, beaches, mountains and forests has got more health promoting ions in the air. An ioniser in your room will also have a similar effect and significantly relief symptoms.
  8. Avoid sugar, stimulants, smoking, alcohol and excess stress.
  9. Increase Magnesium intake by eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and consider supplementing 300-500 mg magnesium per day.
  10. Be aware of what triggers your moods and learn how to control your thought patterns. Counselling may be beneficial.

Enough exercise, supplementation and healthy eating habits can put you on a path to defeat the winter blues.

By Ina Nortjé – Wholistic Wellness Practitioner

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