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.

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! 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.

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).

SAD Tip #2: Dr Dylan Cutler Loves to Exercise Outdoors

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.

SAD Tip #3: Sleep

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

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.

SAD Tip #5: Dr Dylan Cutler and her social support in Whistler, B.C.

SAD Recap

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

In health,

Dr Dylan Cutler

This article is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.

Magnesium: My Must-Have Mineral While Traveling

Magnesium can assist with regulating our sleep cycles which is important to stay healthy while traveling. Chewable magnesium gummies make it easy!

Traveling is a joy and an incredible privilege, but it can also disrupt our sleep schedule. A change of time zones interrupts our circadian rhythm (especially when going from West to East). Early mornings fueled with caffeine and late nights accompanied by alcohol also affect our circadian rhythm. In addition, a change in eating habits can compromise our vitamin and mineral intake.

Magnesium is important for the proper functioning of our nerves, muscles, brains, and hearts. Several chronic diseases have been associated with low magnesium levels including insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, migraines, ADHD and Alzheimer’s. Magnesium also binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in relaxation and sleep regulation. Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to sleep disorders. Further, randomized controlled trials have shown that daily magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality and quantity (20022012).

Magnesium for Travel- Phruitful Dish
On the Mediterranean Sea with my Natural Calm magnesium gummies.

As someone who has suffered from insomnia for most of my life, consuming magnesium has made a huge difference. Since I was a young child I would lay awake in bed at night wondering if I would fall asleep. Then, I would get frustrated with myself for not being able to sleep and the cycle of insomnia continued. I tried everything from inducing a relaxation response to counting sheep. A relaxation exercise I still use today looks like this: I begin by systematically tensing and relaxing each part of my body, starting at my head and ending at my toes. This is known as progressive muscle relaxation and can be helpful for reducing anxiety. Now, along with being mindful of consuming foods high in magnesium, I take a magnesium supplement one-two hours before bedtime. I find I fall asleep faster and wake less frequently (both huge reliefs!). 

Magnesium for Travel

On my recent trip to Europe, I packed my vegan, gluten-free Natural Calm magnesium gummies to help ensure a good night’s sleep, and benefit from the other health properties of magnesium. Chewable gummies eliminate the need to find clean water to take a pill which can be tricky in a foreign country. I also experience anxiety when I have to swallow a large pill so chewable vitamins have been a lifesaver. I would love to hear what your experience with magnesium and sleep has been.

This post is sponsored by Natural Calm Canada.