Foods That Fight Winter Depression
When long nights bring on a long face, this can mean seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Here are some tips to help fight off the winter blues.
The winter blues can leave you not only feeling down in the dumps, but they
can also send you rummaging for sweets. Don't get caught up in this vicious
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that affects 25 million
Americans, mostly women. Much research has been done on this mysterious
In somewhat of a simplification, the lack of light in wintertime can result
in lower levels of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical that regulates hunger and the feeling of
Serotonin production increases with light, meaning that gray gloom creeping
in the window is not kicking the production of feel-good chemicals into
Some symptoms include depression, marathon napping, low self-esteem,
obsessiveness over little things, irritability, shyness, and panic attacks. People with
seasonal affective disorder may also sleep poorly (although for many
hours), partly because they don't have enough serotonin to convert to the sleep
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and people generally recover
completely around April or May - once the days become longer.
Treatment includes light therapy and/or medications. However, there are
things you can do yourself that can help boost serotonin levels.
3 Ways to Boot up Your Serotonin
Julia Ross, MA, is director of the Recovery Systems Clinic in San Francisco
and author of The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure. She tells
WebMD there are three ways to jump-start your serotonin:
- Subject yourself to bright indoor light. This is the touchstone of seasonal
affective disorder treatment. Many pricey lights are available. Ross says a 300
watt bulb within three feet for 20 minutes three times a day can help, although
the boost in serotonin may be temporary.
Exercise. This is very hard to do when caught up in the
seasonal affective disorder cycle. But if you can force yourself to start, 15
to 20 minutes of dancing to the radio or fast walking can reduce a sweet
tooth and improve mood.
- Eat wisely. This means, pushing away the leftover cake and eating sensible
carbs to stimulate serotonin. Sweets and simple carbs, like white rice and
white bread, quickly raise blood sugar, flood you with insulin, and then drop
you in a hole. Eating wisely also means watching the caffeine, which suppresses
serotonin. "If you must drink coffee, save it for after the meal," Ross