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Expert Tips To Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

By David Saunders | UPDATED: 07:42, 08 December 2019

As the long Winter days continue to drag on, it’s starting to feel like we spend the majority of our day in darkness. If you leave and get home when it’s pitch black, a quick 30 minute walk at lunchtime may be the only bit of daylight that you experience.

It’s no wonder that at this time of year we all start to feel a bit irritable, low in energy and generally a bit down.  As well as craving sugary and starchy foods as a quick hit of energy to get us through the day. These common symptoms could be a sign that you are suffering from Season Affective Disorder or SAD, a type of depression that’s related to the change in seasons.

The severity can vary, but the good news is that you don’t have to suffer until Spring.  Here are some expert tips on how to ease symptoms during the Winter months.

Get active

Exercise could be helpful in combating the symptoms of SAD as it helps to release brain chemicals called ‘endorphins’, which help us to feel happier, more alert and calmer.

It may also be helpful to exercise during the daylight hours if you suffer from SAD e.g. lunchtime rather than early morning or evening so you get the benefit of the light as well as the exercise.

Control blood sugar levels

Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD, the UK’s leading Nutritionist specialising in women’s health, suggests cutting out caffeine and sugar.

“When your blood sugar drops (hypoglycaemia) your body produces cortisol and adrenaline in order to realise your sugar stores. You are then producing more of the hormone cortisol which is connected to SAD. The higher your sugar intake, refined carbohydrates intake, like white flour, and caffeine intake, the more severe your mood swings will be. Try and eat every three hours as this prevents your blood-sugar levels from dropping and going into hypoglycaemia.”

Boost your nutrients 

Dr Pam Shervanick, Psychologist and speaker at The Get Well Show, an alternative therapy consumer health show, recommends taking vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium which she deems as vital nutrients for the brain and body.  Magnesium is also referred to as nature’s tranquilizer and is therefore vital in symptoms that relate to low mood, anxiety, tension or other emotional states.

And not forgetting vitamin D; Dr Marilyn Glenville comments, “You may be more affected by SAD because of a lack of vitamin D as it is thought of as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.  Vitamin D receptors are present in your central nervous system and vitamin D can affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are linked to depression.

“Research has shown that people with depression have lower levels of vitamin D. If you suffer from SAD, my recommendation is to get your vitamin D level checked, as many people are deficient in this vital nutrient. There is a simple finger prick test that you can do at home from

“Your body does not expect you to get much vitamin D from your food. It is found in oily fish and eggs. Other sources include fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.  You get most of your vitamin D through your skin in the presence of sunlight. We need exposure to sunlight within a specific UVB spectrum for the production of vitamin D through our skin and we struggle in the UK between October to March.”

Get more light

It may seem obvious but exposing yourself to as much light as possible can do wonders.  Even if it’s a short 10-minute walk or eating lunch outside on a park bench can lift your spirits and improve your mood for the day.

Indoors, try and give your house as much light as possible. If this doesn’t give enough of a mood boost, then you may want to invest in a light box. The idea is that if you sit in front of one for at least 30 minutes, then the light will suppress the release of melatonin and trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood.

Spend time with others

Social interaction is a well-known protector against all forms of depression, helping to lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. But when it’s cold and dark outside the last thing you may feel like doing is leaving the comfort of your own home and socialising.

It’s so important to make sure you don’t feel isolated and alone, especially if you are feeling low. Dr Pam Shervanick is a big advocate of ensuring you have a strong support network around you commenting, “we human beings survive and thrive with other human beings.” Therefore, making the effort to spend time with others is well worth doing.

Seek professional help

Don’t suffer alone.  If are experiencing serious depression then do seek professional help from your GP as soon as possible.

The first ever Get Well Show is taking place at Olympia London from 20th-23rd February.

Did you know that 85% of people feel frustrated or helpless after a doctor’s appointment.  The Get Well Show is one of the first of its kind to tackle this directly by bringing the leading names in alternative health to talk about their cutting-edge learnings, experiences and solutions for chronic health issues.

For further information please visit

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