S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of depression which affects many thousands of people living in the northern hemisphere during the winter months.

 

The symptoms, which can include anxiety, depression, lethargy, food cravings, weight increase and sleep problems often begin in the autumn when the weather is increasingly overcast and the days are shorter, and improve in the spring when the sunlight becomes stronger and the days longer.

The condition is closely linked to a reduction in sunlight, which affects the body's delicate hormone balance.  Lack of sunlight can increase the body's production of melatonin, which increases drowsiness, and suppresses serotonin, which stimulates activity and metabolism.  Raised levels of melatonin prepare the body for sleep which can make us feel tired and increase the risk of depression.

One of the most effective treatments for S.A.D. is light therapy, which endeavours to mimic the effects of summer sunlight.  It involves sitting in front of or beneath a light box for between 20 minutes to 2 hours per day.  The light from these boxes is very bright, around 10 times stronger than normal household or office lighting.  Although successful in many cases, this type of therapy may not suit everyone.  Light boxes are also very expensive to buy, although some manufacturers will hire them out if you would like to give them a try without making a major investment.

Of course, moving to sunnier climes would probably sort out the problem once and for all, but this isn't always practical!  There are other natural therapies you can try if you're blighted by the winter blues.

Natural Daylight

It helps to get outside as much as you can during daylight hours, which can be difficult if you work in an office during the day and travel to and from work in the dark.  Perhaps you could take a walk outside during your lunch break, or at least allocate yourself some time at the weekend to walk or exercise outside?  Not only will you benefit from the extra light, but taking regular exercise releases endorphins, the body's own 'happy hormones'.  If you're indoors allow as much natural light in as possible by pulling the curtains right back.  Spend as much time as you can in the room that attracts the most sun.

Nutrition

A healthy diet, replacing processed foods with complex carbohydrates, reducing sugar intake and including foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan may help to prevent cravings for unhealthy foods.  Foods high in tryptophan include meat, seafood, dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.  Eating a wide variety of natural whole foods will ensure you get a good balance of vitamins and minerals.  Especially important are the b vitamins, vitamins a, c and d, magnesium and selenium.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils can be used in a diffuser, in the bath or in massage when blended with a carrier oil such as Sweet Almond or Grapeseed, to energise and restore emotional balance.  Revitalising and reviving essential oils include Bergamot, Grapefruit, Litsea Cubeba, Orange, Peppermint, Ravensara and Rosemary.  Essential oils to help with depression include Geranium, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Litsea Cubeba, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Petitgrain, Rose Otto, Rosemary and Ylang Ylang.  One of the most useful oils to use to improve the symptoms of S.A.D. is Grapefruit, as it is both a stimulant and anti-depressant and helps to clear that 'fuzzy-headed' feeling.

Any of these oils can be used in a diffuser or oil burner, but if you're using the type with a night light underneath, make sure you keep the water reservoir topped up to prevent the oils from burning.  Generally speaking the citrus oils blend well together, for example, Grapefruit and Orange, or Grapefruit and Bergamot, as do the florals, such as Geranium and Ylang Ylang, or Neroli and Rose Otto.  However Neroli, Jasmine and Rose Otto are very expensive oils and best used for bathing or in massage.

Care should be taken when using strong oils in the bath as they can irritate the skin.  After selecting your essential oils blend well with a vegetable based dispersant or carrier oil before adding to a warm bath.  Mix 6-8 drops of essential oil with 20ml of carrier oil to make an oil you can use for massage or to add to the bath.  A few suggestions would be:

  • 2-3 drops of Rosemary with 2-3 drops of Grapefruit
  • 2 drops of Litsea Cubeba with 4 drops of Ravensara (Ravensara also helps to ward off colds and flu viruses)
  • 1 drop of Rose Otto, 1 drop of Jasmine with 2 drops of Neroli (for a more luxurious blend)
  • 2 drops of Grapefruit, 4 drops of Mandarin with 2 drops of Petitgrain (Petitgrain is also a mild immunity booster)

Gemstones

The most beneficial gemstones are Sunstone, Tiger's Eye and Citrine, which are connected to the energy of the sun.  Sunstone radiates the regenerative power of the sun and encourages optimism, enthusiasm and happiness.  Tiger's Eye grounds the higher energies into the subtle bodies.  Citrine is warming and energising and radiates joy and happiness.  Other useful gemstones are:  Apatite to beat fatigue and boost metabolism; Bloodstone for vitality and energy; Carnelian for vitality and to lift depression; Blue Chalcedony to increase optimism and strengthen physical energy; and Turquoise to strengthen the subtle energy bodies, lift depression and re-energise.

These gemstones can be worn as jewellery or kept in a pocket and held in the hand regularly.  Larger specimens and clusters can be placed around you room to fill it with energy.  Smaller gemstones can be hung in a window to magnify the sun's energy.

 

If you think you may be suffering from any type of depression, it's always a good idea to visit you GP to eliminate any possible underlying health conditions.