Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Real?
The short answer is you bet it is.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD's as it's known (unfortunate acronym right?) is very much a real thing but very often misinterpreted for other mental health issues and can see people end up on medication because of it.
SAD's is basically the experience of low, depressive moods at the same time each year, specifically around the Winter months.
Now this makes absolute perfect sense to us. Why? Because our mood boosting and supporting nutrient levels plummet due to a lack of exposure to enough sunlight to enable our bodies to produce enough Vitamin D.
Approximately one in four Australian adults has inadequate levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’, with the highest rates of deficiency measured in winter in people living in Victoria and the ACT (49 per cent respectively). In Western Australia, in winter, it's 28 per cent of the population that has a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D + A, E and K are brain superfoods guys. Without them we simply fail to thrive, we go into a state of cognitive decline and we experience low moods.
Did you know applying sunscreen diligently prohibits UVB (the rays responsible for suntans) from penetrating the skin? These same UVB rays naturally produce vitamin D. Is that a penny drop moment for you? Applying sunscreen every day before we head out the door is not normal for our bodies guys and can actually have a detrimental impact on our health.
We have experienced first hand the impact of not receiving enough sun on our skin and blue sky exposure for our eyes. Warren and I have both experienced depression in the Winter months here in Melbourne. For Tasmanian folk, it's a well known fact that during Winter when the sun remains low in the sky and the days are short, they must supplement with Vitamin D.
Here is how we prepare for Winter now-
1. Light Therapy: We purchased a light therapy unit from Lumie (The Brazil model). Light therapy brings the daylight indoors and although it doesn't help with Vitamin D levels, it does support our brain chemistry. Verilux light boxes are more easy to access here in Australia and mimic daylight by providing full spectrum light without the harmful UV rays. Full spectrum, or natural light, provides important signals to the body to help you relax, focus, and feel revitalised as well as encourages healthy melatonin and serotonin levels.
2. Vitamin D Supplementation: It's called Vitamin Sunshine for a reason! As sunlight levels drop so do our levels of D. We like Thorne Research Vitamin D/K2 supplement but it has recently been unavailable to order so we've swapped over to Bulletproof A,D,K Stack. So, why can't we just take straight Vitamin D you ask? Vitamin D improves your bone health by helping you absorb calcium. However, it is vitamin K that directs calcium to your bones and prevents it from being deposited in the wrong areas such as our organs. Studies show that healthy vitamin D levels are essential for mood stability, memory and overall cognitive function. Insufficient vitamin D is linked to an array of mental disorders in seniors including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and dementia.
3. Eat More Fat: A study in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience found that low levels of blood cholesterol—caused by inadequate fat in the diet—were associated with a greater risk of being deeply depressed or suicidal. In fact, people with the lowest cholesterol levels had a whopping 112% higher risk of suicidal thoughts. Holy Moly! Saturated fats are your best friends when it comes to supporting your mood and brain guys so eat all the ghee, grass fed butter, coconut oils, seeds, nuts and cold water fish such as Sardines and Salmon. Fermented Cod Liver Butter Oil is excellent but obviously not if you're Vegan and to you guys, you NEED to supplement because DHA does not exist in vegan whole food sources. If you are Vegan- hemp seeds, flaxseeds and avocado will get you part of the way and the Primal Collective Marine Algae supplement will get you the rest of the way to a complete EPA and DHA profile.
If you are someone who like us has battled with low moods during Winter, try implementing these three tips and see how they change your life for the better.
As always, pay attention to your body and the way you feel. If you know you are feeling really quite low please don't discount that as 'just a thing' or 'just you'. Do something about it so that Winter isn't a miserable time of the year.
Remember you'll never get those three months back, what would you rather- three months of feeling good about life or three months of dark depression and low motivation?
I know which one we would rather.