We’ve spent a lot of time at Sanus talking about the effects of low dopamine but there is another neurotransmitter that is also critically important to brain—and overall—health. It’s called serotonin.
As with dopamine, serotonin also impacts every part of your body. While it is probably more widely associated with mood stabilization, it also helps with regulating sleep, eating and digestion. It also contributes to maintaining healthy bones and helps heal wounds.
Today, we’re going to look at serotonin and winter blues. Winter blues is actually a real thing, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (no irony lost on that acronym).
Research studies in 1989, 1990, 1997 and 1999 suggest that serotonin levels actually vary from season-to-season, with the lowest levels found in December and January. Researchers found that serotonin production is dependent on exposure to sunlight. Because the number of hours a day we see the sun during the winter is limited, serotonin turnover in your brain decreases significantly in the winter.
What is SAD?
SAD is a depression that shows up during the same season every year. While it is most common in the winter, some people can experience SAD in the summer, too.
Who can get SAD?
Well, anyone can but these groups are more likely that others:
- People who live in areas where winter sunlight hours are limited
- People between the age of 15-55 (you chances of getting SAD decreases with age)
- If you have a close relative with SAD
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Keep in mind these are the most common, but not a complete list of symptoms, and they would generally occur at the same time each year (usually in the winter), then go away until the same time the following year.
- Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious
- Lose interest in your usual activities
- Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
- Weight gain
- Sleep more but still feel tired
- Have trouble concentrating
How to keep SAD at bay?
There are natural ways to keep symptoms of SAD under control. Here are few of my favorites.
- Sunshine - Yes it’s cold but even if you don’t go outside, open your curtains and put your face towards the sun. Just 15 minutes of this, will make you feel better.
- Salt - Salt spas are everywhere now so there is no excuse to not go. First and foremost benefit if getting salt therapy is the warmth you get when you walk inside. Salt therapy has been known to help with Eczema, Psoriasis and other respiratory and skin issues. What I love about salt therapy is it helps with stress because you sit for 45 minutes and meditate while inhaling salt. I highly recommend this.
- Meditation: Listen to your breath while picturing yourself on the beach. Only 5 minutes a day can keep the stress and depression at bay.
- Exercise: Keep moving. You don’t have to go to the gym to do a pushup or some jumping jacks. Get your heart rate up and the blood flowing.
- Supplements: Fish oil is the #1 supplement to treat winter depression.
- Get yourself a bottle of Cerveau to help boost your production of neurotransmitters.