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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Support for the Winter Blues Before & During the Cold Season

Before we dig into the nitty gritty of seasonal affective disorder, we wanted to share information about two upcoming classes that can help support anyone who experiences SAD or a lighter version of the winter blues.

Friday, Nov. 5 from 11:00-3:00: Dr. Rae presents Shifa Community Chiropractic - Healing Community through Chiropractic Care

Dr. Rae (Doctorate Chiropractic) welcomes you!

"'Connect, align, empower' - that is my mission, personally and all who I touch. I am committed to compassionate leadership and non-violent communication. I would love to see a healthy and sustainable world where people are making connected, aligned, and empowered decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities. I am offering a community style pop-up clinic for affordable chiropractic care for all."

Walk-ins welcome. Sliding scale. More dates available. For more information and to register, click here.

Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 5:30-6:30: The Doctor is in with Dr. Karen Benton: Food & Mood

Have you ever wondered about some of the links between what you eat and how you feel? Have you noticed you feel better after having eaten certain foods? What is it about brain chemistry that is positively linked with particular foods? We'll cover these topics and more along with reviewing specific foods, nutrients and supplements which are often used to enhance brain balance and mood. Course materials will be provided.

For more information and to register, click here.

Winter is quickly approaching, and for about 5% of US adults (American Psychiatric Association), so is seasonal affective disorder, better known as SAD. Five percent may not sound like much, but we’re talking millions of people--not including children and teens--that suffer with the “winter blues.” And the further away you are from the equator, that number gets even higher. (Note that SAD can also occur in the summer months, however it’s much less common).

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder typically begin with the arrival of fall and winter, and the sun’s earlier departure from the sky, showering us with less sunlight hours during the long days of the cold season. Our circadian rhythms are thrown off and the production of mood-regulating hormones, such as melatonin and serotonin, is interrupted, affecting mood, sleep and appetite.

Symptoms you may experience from SAD are similar to depression and can include changes in sleep (usually wanting to sleep more), fatigue (even with more sleep), changes in appetite, weight gain, lack of energy, feeling sad for no apparent reason, loss of interest in activities and spending time with loved ones, and difficulty thinking, concentrating, and making decisions.

The good news--if we can call it that--is that since seasonal affective disorder typically occurs during the colder months, you can begin prepping for it ahead of time. If you know you struggle with SAD or even a light case of the winter blues, which is normal, begin incorporating the methods below or what you know works for you before the symptoms hit. Promising methods of relief include:

  • Light therapy: utilizing light therapy is helpful as it mimics the lack of sunlight you're experiencing in your day-to-day. Using a 10,000 lux light for about half an hour every morning is recommended, though there are other light strengths and methods available, as well. For more information on bright light therapy, visit here or here.

  • Getting outside: being outside in the sunlight and nature, for even 20-30 minutes a day, can make a world of difference.

  • Movement: plain and simple...get up and move! Movement is critical for your physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing. 20-30 minute daily walks in the sunshine are great, or take advantage of the winter weather and try out snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding. For an added bonus, invite your friends along to bump up your social time, making you even happier.

  • Diet: there are lots of mood-boosting foods out there, including dark, sweet cherries, avocado, dark chocolate, bananas and plantain, nuts and seeds, seafood (make sure it’s clean), mushrooms, chickpeas, and more.

  • Plant medicine: of course we have to include plant medicine! Luckily, Mother Earth provides us with a hefty supply of mood boosting and adaptogenic herbs to turn to during heavy times. Here are some of our favorites, and all are available in the apothecary and our online store!

    • Mucuna Pruriens is one of the only naturally occurring sources of L-Dopa, an amino acid that transforms into dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that ignites feelings of joy and bliss. It can also help boost serotonin and other vital hormones.

    • St. John's Wort is one of the most effective herbs for treating mild to moderate depression. It’s suggested that the herb acts similarly to an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), increasing the availability of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, helping improve mood. We chose SJW as our herb of the month back in July when it was bountiful in nature, so for more information on this powerful herb and a recipe for an infused oil, click here. *Do not use St. John’s Wort if you’re already on a pharmaceutical antidepressant as it can interact with several medications; talk to your healthcare professional if you want to incorporate SJW into your regimen.

    • Panax Ginseng

    • Rhodiola

    • Garcinia Cambogia

    • Medicinal mushrooms

    • Cacao

    • Damiana

    • Ginkgo Biloba

    • Jasmine

    • Lemon Balm

    • Motherwort

    • Passionflower

    • Chamomile

    • Lavender

    • Vervain

    • One of our favorite herbal supplements is the Happiness Tonic from Anima Mundi Herbals. It contains mucuna, St. John’s Wort, rhodiola, and more, helping to boost serotonin and dopamine, and reduce depression, stress, and anxiety.

  • Supplementation: our current day food supply is lacking in many beneficial nutrients, so supplementation may be necessary to get adequate levels of happiness-inducing nutrients into your body. These include:

    • Vitamin D: lack of sun exposure equals lack of vitamin D, so be sure you’re getting plenty through diet or supplementation. If you’re taking a supplement, make sure it also contains vitamin K (I talk about why in our last post here). Foods high in vitamin D include sun-dried shiitake mushrooms, cod liver oil, herring, rainbow trout, pasture-raised chicken eggs, and portobello mushrooms.

    • Amino acids, specifically L-theanine, tryptophan and 5-HTP: these increase brain levels of serotonin and can make you more resilient to stress. There is some controversy regarding using 5-HTP for long term use as it can actually deplete dopamine, so work with a healthcare professional when using this amino acid.

    • Probiotics: the gut is the second brain, so supplementing with or eating foods rich in probiotics will make for more balanced mental and emotional health.

    • B vitamins (especially B6 and B9)

    • Vitamin C

    • Magnesium

    • Zinc

    • Omega-3s

Finally, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Talk therapy can be extremely beneficial, and sometimes an antidepressant medication is necessary. We're all in this together, and we could all use a little more support, a little more grace, and a lot more love.

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