sad

Now that Daylight Savings Time has ended, we face a few months of shorter days and less sun exposure.  For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this is a particularly difficult time of year.

SAD is a type of depression triggered by seasonal light changes. In most cases, symptoms begin during late fall or early winter and start to fade away as the days become longer during spring. Symptoms of SAD include loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, lack of energy, sadness, feelings of hopeless, difficulty concentrating, a strong desire to sleep, and changes in appetite or weight. The farther north you live in the U.S., the more prone you are to experiencing SAD. Overall, about 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from the condition.  We are lucky to live here in Colorado, where we have 300 days of sunshine, but that doesn’t mean Coloradoans are immune to the condition.

People with SAD may have intense cravings for certain foods—particularly carbs. It may be hard to pass up all those tasty fall comfort foods, but indulging too much could cause unwanted weight gain. You’re better off indulging in a healthier source of carbs, which boost levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical released in your brain chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. By choosing high fiber carbs, such as unprocessed oats, you avoid the energy dips that can make feelings of sadness more intense.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also increase serotonin, making things like spinach, grass-fed beef, walnuts, and fatty fish smart diet additions. Vitamin D supplements and sources of the nutrient like wild salmon, eggs, tuna, and fortified milk can also help. If you are taking a vitamin D supplement, make sure it contains cholecalciferol, which is considered by many experts to be the most potent form of vitamin D.

Exercise can help you manage SAD. It is important to find some sort of movement that you enjoy and can do you regularly.  Short breaks throughout the day are beneficial because they break up sitting time and give you the opportunity to go outside and soak up some sun.

If you think you have SAD, consider talking to your doctor about it.  It can be hard to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression because many of the symptoms are the same. You may need to have blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as low thyroid.