Are you struggling hard with the winter blues, a.k.a. seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? Natural remedies for SAD could benefit you substantially if you’re sludging through the winter months with seasonal depression.
Winter can be a difficult season to get through for many people. Although, before you fear that what you’re experiencing is clinical depression, visit a primary care doctor. Do you find that your symptoms only occur when the days are shorter and colder or in certain seasons? Discussing your symptoms with a licensed health professional will allow you to get the best treatment possible (1).
Our integrative primary care physicians give their expert suggestions on natural remedies for SAD and stress management. Maybe all your body needs is a natural serotonin boost with a little bit of self-care.
Home Remedies for SAD
Vitamin D and Light Therapy
Without a doubt, fresh air, nature, and sunlight (scientifically classified as negative air ions or NAIs) are the ultimate natural serotonin boosts (2). In fact, simply taking walks outside can boost your psychological health, productivity, and overall well-being through the absorption of NAIs (3).
Of course, cold weather makes us only want to curl into a ball with a blanket. Although, if it is not raining, sleeting, or hailing, even if it’s cloudy, take a walk outside if you can. Start small with 15 minutes every morning and afternoon and increase your time every other day or weekly.
If getting natural sunlight just isn’t in your schedule, take a Vitamin D supplement during winter months or just on certain days.
Is it hard for you to get natural light during the winter? Buy your own light with a light therapy mask or lamp, proven effective in treating SAD (4). Some are even programmed to play nature sounds!
It’s just too easy to make microwavable noodles or soup, isn’t it? You’re better than that. A little effort goes a long way to get the right nutrients. Make easy and delicious, hot meals full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
- Experiment with hearty stews or soups loaded with vegetables, lentils, and beans
- Bake a small chicken with roasted veggies and fresh herbs. Then, simmer the bones for a piping cup of homemade bone broth for lunch that week.
- Create hot sandwiches using toasted whole grain bread with quality cheese and proteins, plus a layer of leafy greens.
Do you insist on eating ready-to-eat noodles or soup? Chop up some fresh tangy scallions, crunchy bell pepper or carrot, or creamy avocado to brighten up your spirits.
Basic Natural Remedies for SAD
Do whatever you have to do to get a good night of sleep because it will directly impact your mood the next day.
- Is your pillow and mattress comfortable?
- Are your sheets making you sweat?
- Is your room too warm or too cold?
These are important questions to ask yourself. If you have a top-quality mattress, comfortable pillow and blanket, and good room temperature, there are ways to improve sleep quality.
- No screens (tv, tablet, computer, etc.) at least one hour before bed, but aim for 2 hours
- No liquids one hour before bed
- Magnesium or melatonin supplement
- Sleep mask and/or blackout curtains
- Stretching or meditation
- Essential oils for your pillow case or your temples
Yes, we know. Who wants to come home from work out of the cold or off your comfy, warm couch and get into workout gear? It definitely takes more motivation in the winter to exercise, but the work is worth the benefit. Remember, working out, even if only for 20-30 minutes, naturally increases serotonin and boosts energy.
Setting a Morning or Daily Routine
It is definitely hard forcing yourself to do certain things when it is dark and cold. Wake up every morning and stretch for 10-15 minutes or do a short, low impact workout. Meditate. Wash dishes. Go for a mid-day walk. Drink water.
Do New Activities and Create Your Own Fun While You’re at It
Read for a bit. Draw. Color. Do a puzzle or crossword. Complete a paint by numbers kit. Have a dance party at your work desk or at home to warm your body and stimulate your mind. Observe your outside surroundings for birds or other animals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Seek professional help when you need it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular treatment for stress management and seasonal depression (4).
Management of SAD
Winter can definitely put us in a hopeless, sad kind of way. Don’t let wintertime swallow your mood whole, then spit it back out for you to clean up the pieces.
Take care of your mental health and body the right way. Incorporate easy, natural remedies for SAD and stress management to naturally boost serotonin (5).
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Don’t treat SAD alone. You’ll receive an in-depth consult with a licensed medical doctor to discuss SAD symptoms and treatment. Get the support you need in those tough winter months when your health care may be left on the back burner.