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Help for Seasonal Depression

By Elliot Caleira

What is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder is when a lack of sufficient sunlight in the winter months causes depressive symptoms in certain individuals. Due to the body's dependency on sunlight to produce vitamin D, an important vitamin responsible for the absorption of nutrients from food, a lack of natural sunlight can lead to levels that are below the recommended threshold. Since daylight hours are shorter in the winter, the body's exposure to the sun's rays is less frequent and, depending on our schedules, may even be diminished entirely. This can cause symptoms that are consistent with clinical depression. Anxiety symptoms may also be present alongside the depression. There are, however, reasons to be optimistic if you suffer from Seasonal Depression. Research has shown that there are several methods that help to increase natural vitamin D levels and reduce these symptoms. I, myself, suffer from the condition and have found the following methods to be helpful to me.

Light Therapy

At first, the idea of sitting beside a light for 30 minutes seemed like a gimmick to me. I purchased my first light therapy box a few years back and was hesitant to use it. However, after a week of consistent use, I began to feel my depression start to lift, and I made a habit of using it. Every morning, I eat breakfast beside my light therapy box, and the effects last throughout the day. It truly is an incredible invention.

Light therapy boxes emit light that mimics natural sunlight. This causes the body to produce vitamin D on its own. It also helps us to regulate our sleep cycle. And while the benefits of the boxes are clear, the majority of them also filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. This allows for a safe and effective session. One important note to make is that it is best to use these boxes in the mornings and early afternoons. Using them later than that may lead to a difficult time falling asleep at night.

Vitamin Supplements

Aside from light therapy, I also begin each morning by taking a vitamin D supplement as well as a multivitamin. Taking these ensures that I maintain a steady level of vitamin D throughout the day. It also makes sure that none of my other vitamin levels fall too low due to neglect. When you are feeling down, it's easy to forget about the importance of these vitamins and nutrients and just how critical they are to the body's functioning. I place my supplements right next to the light therapy box. That way, I don't have to search for them in the morning.

A study of the effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression found that there was a relation between levels of vitamin D in the blood and symptoms of depression. When supplementation was implemented, they found that many of the symptoms abated. During summer months, it's easy to restore our levels by simply going outside and exposing ourselves to the sun. In the winter months, however, this is much harder to do in many regions, and a good quality vitamin D supplement may help to overcome the winter blues.

Diet

The third method I found helpful for Season Depression was changing my diet. I started by getting rid of sugary items and processed carbohydrates. This seemed to have an immediate impact on my overall condition. I felt like I had less frequent mood swings and less overall anxiety. When I would stray from it and have a sugary snack, I would immediately feel worse, and it would stay like that for a day or two.

Some people have taken this even further and have seen benefits from something called the Daniel diet, which calls for giving up all animal products, sweeteners, alcohol and anything made with yeast. It is a diet that is based on the items that Daniel the prophet ate in the scripture. The diet lasts for 10 to 21 days.

In Conclusion

If you are a sufferer of Seasonal Depression, you are not alone. There are many people who have these symptoms every winter. I, myself, have them and have found that a good quality light therapy box, vitamin supplements and improving my overall diet helps to alleviate my symptoms. I hope they do the same for you as well.

Elliot Caleira is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he's not writing you'll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes. More articles by Elliot.

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