Monday, November 18, 2013

7 Natural Remedies for Fighting the Winter Blues

{Yes, I know it's not winter yet, but the winter blues do not abide by calendar rules & other such arbitrary dates.}

For the past two weeks, I've noticed a change in myself. My attitude has been more negative, my energy levels very low--almost lethargic, and my desire to eat constant. When I read this post recently, a light bulb went off in my head. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Before you stop reading and diagnose me a hypochondriac, consider yourself. 
  • Have you noticed a change in your mood?
  • Is all the darkness & lack of sunshine weighing you down?
  • Do you want to sleep all the time?
  • Are you drinking more caffeine than normal?
  • Are you gaining weight unexpectedly?
  • Are you saying "no" to social activities more frequently? 
If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, you might want to read on.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs about the same time every year. It usually starts in Fall or Winter and ends in Spring or early Summer. Some people experience SAD in the Summer, but it's more common in the Winter months.

The causes of SAD are not fully known but one theory is that less sunlight in winter months reduces serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood and puts you at ease. Low levels of serotonin can trigger depression.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Winter:
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite especially for sweets
  • Weight gain
  • Increased desire to be alone, social withdrawal
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety
Source: WebMd

Looking back at this post, I can see now that I have experienced the winter blues for at least the past two years. This year, though, it seems to be hitting harder and earlier.

My symptoms clearly align with those listed at WebMd. I've been extra-tired--like I want to hibernate all day long. To keep going, I've been consuming LOTS of coffee; it hasn't helped either. I've gained 10 pounds from all the carbs I'm eating. I want to be alone even more than normal, and I feel anxious at times.

Treatment for SAD

The most common forms of treatment for SAD sufferers are (1) light therapy using light boxes and (2) antidepressants. Both involve seeing a professional health care provider, which you should do if your symptoms are severe.

I don't believe mine are (and my husband is keeping close tabs on me), so I'm taking a more natural approach to treating SAD.  

sun grass

Natural Home Remedies for Treating SAD

1. Get outside every day.
The lack of sun (and Vitamin D which comes from it) are what trigger SAD. By going out during the day, even when it's cloudy. The natural light will boost your mood and alleviate depression. Sources recommend going outside within the first two hours of waking up.

I admit that we don't venture outside very much this time of year. We're busy with school and housework, and I'm just not an outdoor-person. But I'm going to make a conscious effort to get out every day although that may mean at 6:00 in the morning!

2. Bring the sunlight inside!
Open the curtains & raise the blinds. Add pops of bright colors like yellow and orange to your rooms to encourage happiness. Sit close to windows, and spend time in the sunniest room in your house.

I think this is the perfect excuse for buying a few new cheery throw pillows and accent pieces. 

3. Pay attention to what you eat & drink.
When you're depressed, your body craves sweets and starchy foods, which contribute to weight gain. Instead, eat a well-balanced diet, and forgo excess caffeine even though you may feel like you need it.

Oh, this will be the toughest! Every afternoon I have a cup of coffee to stay me through the rest of the day. But I've noticed that I'm also more likely to eat sweets with it, so I'm really interested to see if staying away from both helps.

4. Exercise for 30 minutes/ 3 days a week.
Running and other aerobic activity releases endorphins and raises serotonin levels so you feel good. Exercise--particularly in the morning hours--relieves stress and anxiety, which increase SAD symptoms. 

Life has gotten busy, and we haven't been exercising as regularly as we should. I'm planning to go to the gym three days this week because I KNOW how good I feel after a really intense workout.

5. Stay involved socially.
When it's dark and cold outside, connecting with loved ones may not seem ideal, but fun times with friends and family will lift your spirits. Socializing is very important when dealing with SAD.

Being around people when I'm feeling down wears me out. I've been struggling to make myself go places, but I usually do feel better once I've gone and spent time with other people. I definitely need to make more of an effort in this area.

6. Take a vacation somewhere sunny.
Even just two or three days in a sunny location can reverse the negative effects of SAD and return your brain to a normal balance of chemicals. 

When I told my husband that I think I have SAD and suggested a trip to Hawaii, he said okay as long as my parents will keep the girls. He was being a little sarcastic I think. "But, honey, Mom did offer to watch the girls if we want to go to Hawaii." ;)

7. Turn to God & His promises.
I added this one because it's so important for people who know God to remember His promises. When sadness, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness overwhelm, run to the Lord. Satan wants us to lose hope, but God promises He will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Keep Bibles open throughout your house with key passages highlighted for comfort. The Lord wants to give His children good gifts; ask Him.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting me. If it's affecting you, too, I hope you'll try some of these natural remedies to see if they help. However, if your symptoms are severe, please consult your doctor.

For more information about SAD, check out these links:
Seasonal affective Disorder --
SAD Directory -- WebMd
5 Home Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder -- Discovery Fit & Health

I am not a licensed healthcare professional. This post contains only research I've obtained online and should not take the place of consultation with a licensed counselor, psychiatrist or physician. 

What do you do to steer clear of the winter blues?

Feel free to share a link or comment in the comment section below.  

 Blessings to you,

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  1. Hi Keri, This is great info on SAD. I'm from the area near Buffalo, NY originally and it got pretty cold there for a good part of the year. If you didn't like winter activities, you were in for some depressing times. These are great tips.

    1. Kim, I think I would have a hard time living up North. I do not like snow very much. I should mention we live near Nashville, Tennessee, where snow is minimal. However dreary weather is not.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Great points and suggestions. The dark dreary days really make a difference. I'm looking forward to heading to TX to see my family after Christmas. Family is always good for lifting spirits in my book.

    1. Spending time with family lifts my spirits too, but a visit to Texas to see family sounds great!

  3. Hi Keri, Great advice! I suffer from SAD. I found that using full spectrum lights really helps me. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Carol. I will have to look in to full spectrum lights. I wonder if that is like the lightbox I have been reading about. Blessings to you!

  4. Bloggers' retreat in Honolulu, Keri! :-) Great suggestions, especially number seven. I find myself spending more time in the Word during the colder months, and I think this must be why. Thanks for the light-bulb moment!

    1. Great suggestion, Meghan! My husband and I have actually talked about a trip to Hawaii but jokingly. That would be nice!

      That is great you are naturally motivated to seek God during the dreary winter months. I need to do that more for sure!

  5. I just had a thought last night about SAD. I think that's what my problem is! I've been dealing with every one of those symptoms in the last couple weeks and it's been awful! I will give those tips a try, even though I'm like you and I don't wanna! ;)

    1. Jillian, I have been taking a walk in the mornings with my kids and just that little bit of sunlight has helped tremendously. Plus the exercise doesn't hurt either. Hope you can find a little relief! At least you know maybe what's ailin' ya!

  6. This is reeeally an issue for me, one I finally had sense enough to recognize just a couple of years ago. Once the loveliness of Christmas is past, I am DONE with winter and sometimes January and February turn into long, lonely months. Thank heavens I don't live up north where spring doesn't really start until May!

    It's hard with children and homeschooling, but I know I need to get outside more during those winter months. And exercise DOES make me feel better, if I can just discipline myself to do it regularly. My biggest issue may be the coffee. coffee consumption DOUBLES during the winter months, primarily because the thought of a hot drink helps me get up on those cold mornings.

    Anyway, thank you so much for addressing an issue nobody really talks about! I'm glad to know I'm not the only woman who deals with this!

  7. Tanya, I can totally relate to your description. For me, SAD doesn't usually hit until after Christmas but this year I'm struggling already! I don't know why except maybe that I'm home a lot more since we're homeschooling, and the weather is pretty dark and dreary.

    My prayer daily is for the Lord to help me cling to Him when I feel anxious, desperate, and sad instead of running to coffee or food. I will pray this for you, too, sweet friend.

  8. Wow! This was such an informative post. I didn't even know that the "winter blues" had a clinical name. What a great list of natural remedies you gave as well (especially #7).

    I’d love it if you shared this post and other winter/Christmas-inspired posts you might have over at “The Merriest Blog Hop”. It just started yesterday and will take place each Friday leading up to Christmas. There are giveaways each week too!

    Here’s the link:

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks, Alicia. I will check out your blog hop, too. Thank you for the offer!

      Blessings to you!

  9. Hey Keri! It's Deonna from the Child at Heart blog! Thank you so much for linking up at the Merriest Blog Hop! I can't wait to see all of your holiday ideas...This is such a great post and I love the tips. I have completely quick exercising the past few weeks and I do have less energy because I was walking outside every day. I need to get back out there....but not's snowing and like 10 degrees :)