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.
Get outside! Even if only for a short while (yes, it is cold), 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.
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).
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.
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.
5. Support Network
In the darker months, it can be tempting to hibernate on the couch with a blanket and a good book, which at times is what our bodies need. However, too much isolation may result in worsened SAD.
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.
So pop a magnesium gummy, get some sleep, and invite a friend for a hike in the outdoors!
Dr Dylan Cutler
This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.