5 Tips to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can give many of us the winter blues. Here are Dr. Cutler’s top 5 tips to combat SAD.

Simple Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, impacts around 17% of Canadians each year with varying levels of intensity. SAD usually begins around the months of fall and continues through the winter months. The symptoms are the same as major depression, with the only difference being the time of year of onset.

1. Sunshine

Get outside (if/when you can)! Even if only for a short while, sunshine on our skin may help increase serotonin production. Depression is often linked with low serotonin levels. Decreased serotonin can also affect our energy, appetite, and sex drive. I’ve experienced, many times, how a short walk in my neighborhood can shift my mood and perception of the day.

Morning Tip: Open your blinds and let the light in as soon as you wake up. This can support our circadian rhythms, as well.

SAD Tip #1: Dr Dylan Cutler Outside Getting Sunshine

2. Sweat

Exercise has various health benefits, one of which is boosting our mood.

Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective anti-depressant for mild to moderate levels of depression. It doesn’t take much either! Researchers have estimated that 35 minutes of physical activity is enough to reduce the risk of depression. One study found that walking for 60 minutes a day (or running for 15 minutes) can reduce the risk of depression by 26%.

Exercise works by increasing blood flow to the brain, supporting neural growth, reducing inflammation in the brain, and releasing “feel good” endorphins.

Physical activity at a moderate intensity level seems to have the best effect on mental well-being (as opposed to intense levels).

Dr Dylan Cutler hiking the Sea to Sky Summit

3. Sleep

Sleep is vital all-year-round. However, during the holiday season it may be extra necessary to prioritize sleep. Schedules often get busier, responsibilities mount, and stress levels can rise.

Sufficient sleep (around 7-9 hours a night) can help stabilize our mood. People who are sleep deprived are at 10x greater risk of developing depression! Sleep is our time for restoration. If falling asleep or staying asleep is an issue, prioritizing a regular bedtime routine, along with daily activity and time outside, can be helpful.

4. Supplement

Evidence suggests that the removal and decline of magnesium from foods has resulted in various mood disorders in the Western world. Up to 75% of Americans are not obtaining the recommended amount of daily magnesium.

A randomized controlled trial from 2008 found that 450 mg of magnesium supplementation was as effective as Imipramine (an antidepressant) for treating major depression. This study was conducted in a group of elderly patients with type 2 diabetes and depression.

I enjoy popping a couple of Natural Calm magnesium gummies throughout the day (they feel like a chewy, sweet treat). Then, before bed, I mix Natural Calm magnesium powder in water and sip for a sound sleep. Both these products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with less than 1 gram of sugar.

SAD Tip #4: Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Powder

5. Support Network

Studies have shown that having a solid support network is an important determinant of health. Adults with flourishing support networks are more likely to be happier, have high life satisfaction, and more likely to report “very good” or “excellent” mental health.

2021 update: While the ways we connect with our support network have changed, we have many tools to work with. Technology is our friend right now when it comes to maintaining social connections; phone a friend, arrange a virtual movie night or games night, follow the same workout while Zooming together, the possibilities are endless.

SAD Tip #5: Dr Dylan Cutler and her social support in Whistler, B.C.
Photo from Dec. 2019, pre-pandemic.

SAD Recap

So pop a magnesium gummy, call a friend, get some sleep, and go for a hike in the beautiful outdoors!

In health,

Dr Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

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Author: Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.

Dr. Dylan Cutler is the founder of Phruitful Dish. She's a holistic health content creator, vegan, athlete, feminist, social activist, and PCOS fighter. She obtained her Ph.D. in obstetrics and gynaecology specializing in PCOS management using nutrition, movement, and mindfulness. She resides in Victoria, Canada on unceded Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories.

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