As many as 5 percent of us deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in winter, when the days get shorter and we are literally getting less light in our lives-and to our brains. Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost your mood and help you enjoy the holidays and weather the January slump that sometimes follows.
This is supposed to be the time of tinsel and laughter, parties and good cheer. But if you do not see it that way, you’re not alone. For many of us, the holidays mean rushing to buy gifts, entertain family and friends, and attend parties. Many of us are stressed and worn out.
If you’re just not in the spirit of the season and even the idea of baking cookies leaves you feeling glum, it’s possible you’re suffering from depression. Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost your mood and help you enjoy the holidays and weather the January slump that sometimes follows.
Light and Exercise
As many as 5 percent of us deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in winter, when the days get shorter and we are literally getting less light in our lives–and to our brains. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of us prefer to huddle indoors by a warm fireplace.
What helps most is to get outside; get as much sun and light as you can. Try going for a walk, strap on some snowshoes, or head for the hills and do some skiing. Even if your depression isn’t caused by the shorter days, there is abundant scientific evidence to support the benefits of exercise.
Many people get help by sitting in front of a full-spectrum light box for 30 to 60 minutes a day.
St. John’s Wort
Scientific research has shown in many studies that St. John’s wort can help relieve the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
A British Medical Council review found that taking St. John’s wort for as little as four weeks provided relief in at least 69 percent of those who took it, and in some studies, 100 percent reported their moods improved during short-term use of the herb. In one long-term study, 85 percent of participants rated the effectiveness as good or excellent.
St. John’s wort extract is typically available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form.
Eating a piece of salmon, sprinkling ground flaxseed on your salad, or swallowing fish oil capsules may go a long way toward improving your mood, according to a review published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2006).
Several studies confirm that many people suffering from depression have low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, those good fats found in fish such as salmon and tuna. Those who ate the most fatty fish were the least likely to experience depression.
The studies suggest that one gram a day of omega-3 fatty acids can be an effective treatment, whether in the form of a supplement or by eating fish such as salmon, tuna, or sardines a few times a week. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, canola, and soybean oils, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is a substance that occurs naturally in the cells of plants, animals, and humans. Supplementation with SAMe has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression, according to research from the University of California at Irvine. SAMe relieved depression in 62 percent of subjects in just four weeks, compared to a success rate of only 50 percent for desipramine, an antidepressant drug sold under the brand name Norpramin.
As with all supplements for treating depression, be sure to consult your health-care professional about the appropriate dosage for you and to learn of any potential interactions.
If the tinsel, laughter, and good cheer are making your season far from festive this year, remember that there are some simple remedies that may help to make your season bright.