7 Natural Therapies for the Seasonal Blues

Less sunlight can contribute to seasonal depression but here are some ways to beat the winter blues.

Nov 13, 2019

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Winter is coming soon. For some people there is great excitement over the winter festivities, winter sports, and winter getaways. The days are shorter but that could mean quality inside family time.

On the other hand, shorter days means less sunlight and that means less vitamin D, a lower serotonin level, a higher production of melatonin (a sleep related hormone)  that can upset the body's natural rhythm. Any and all of these can cause the winter blues otherwise known as seasonal affective depression or SAD. People with SAD often experience typical depression symptoms that include a lack of interest in normal activities and fatigue.

Today, it is understood that one out of seven people will experience depression symptoms at some point in their lives. The most common treatment is a prescription antidepressant medication. While these medications help many depressed people, they come with a host of side-effects.

In many cases, there are natural therapies that have been scientifically proven to work just as well as the drug treatments for mild depression and SAD.

Exercise More

While the links are not totally clear, a study at the Mayo Clinic physical exercise (working out or just walking or jogging) can ease the symptoms of depression and make people feel better, possibly because exercise boosts feel-good endorphins. And exercise may even keep depression from recurring. That's a great reason to get moving.

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Manage Stress with Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation, mindfulness and other ancient practices used In India and China, have been shown to help with depression. "The dozens of different types of meditation all seek a state of heightened awareness," Dr E. Robert Schwartz, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told Explore, and that "heightened awareness could have far-ranging benefits for people with depression and anxiety." This is worth meditating over.

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Get More Sleep

Depression can make it hard to fall asleep but getting more sleep can help lift the symptoms. When a person is well rested, they have more energy and more focus. That's because sleep is about a lot more than just rest. In the deepest sleep stage, dreaming occurs, the body recharges the immune system and plays a big role in emotional well-being. So, turn off the computer and the TV, and get more rest.

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Eat Like You're Greek

Nutritionists recommend a Mediterranean diet – eating more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid – for a host of health reasons including depression. In a study, 32 percent of the patients who followed this diet experienced a remission of symptoms. So, pour on the olive oil and eat healthy.

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Bright Light Therapy

A vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight can bring on or worsen depression symptoms and spending all day inside with artificial light is also problematic. Go outside and spend 10-20 minutes in the sun daily. If this is not possible or not enough, studies showed that bright light therapy from light boxes showed a significant reduction in depression symptoms for people suffering from SAD. Open the shades, take a walk and bask in the winter sunshine.

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Try St. John's Wort

The herb St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) has been used in folk medicine for ages. Several studies show that St. John's wort can help to fight mild depression. Although researchers are not sure why, it is believed that the herb makes more serotonin and endorphins in the brain and that boosts mood. St. John's Wort does not help with severe depression where antidepressant drug therapy is indicated. Please note, only take use an herbal treatment under the guidance of your health care provider.

These natural treatments will help to manage SAD, but it is still important to work with a healthcare professional in creating a treatment plan rather than to self-treat.  Remember that even if prescribed antidepressants these natural solutions can still be very beneficial in depression management.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.