Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects us seasonally. It is diagnosed by episodes of depression that recur at the same time each year, typically during the winter months. As with most other types of depression, SAD has two main symptoms which are a low mood and a loss of interest in ordinary things but there are other symptoms which include being less active, putting on weight and sleeping more. SAD can affect people in the summer but it is generally worse in the winter when the winter sun is at its weakest. In the past we only ever worked outdoors, in fact two hundred years ago 75% of the population worked outdoors and these days only 10% of the population work in natural outdoor light. This works fine in the summer when the days are longer but in the winter you find that people tend to go to work in the dark and go home in the dark and don’t get to enough natural daylight.
This dramatically alters nature’s cues. A modern day no longer starts at the break of dawn and ends at sunset. Workdays get longer and some people do shift work. Moreover, electric lighting allows social gatherings and personal activities to extend well into the night. All of these factors have helped to decrease the body’s natural ability to regulate the body clock and this work/life change has resulted in a dramatic increase in light deficiency symptoms. For those who live in the UK and Ireland we are further hampered as we are situated in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere. As a result, we experience large changes in light levels between the summer and winter. We also experience periods of dark, gloomy weather which can reduce the amount of light we receive and therefore have a profound effect on our body clocks. So there you have it; a combination of a change in seasonal light, our hectic lifestyles and the periods of darker days and poorer weather has resulted in dramatic effects on our circadian rhythms. As a direct consequence of these environmental and lifestyle factors, more people than ever before are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
People that suffer from SAD are probably knowledgeable about light boxes that can create a sense of extra daylight but did you know that by changing your eating habits you can drastically improve your sense of wellbeing and mood? If you do suffer from SAD disorder, it is worth trying these different types of foods for a couple of months to see if they elevate your mood and make you feel better. Here are our most important life changing ones:
Are not just a breakfast food, they are rich in folic acid which is a mood booster, they are also protein and fat rich which means they will not cause fluctuations in your blood sugar. And you can cook them in many different ways.
Affect the neurotransmitters in your brain as they contain B6, which you need to balance your mood swings. Like eggs, they are also low on the glycemic index also means you won’t experience a peak and trough in your blood sugar as they contain slow-release energy.
Are full of depression-fighting magnesium as well as B6 and folates and they also contain monounsaturated fat. This helps your metabolism and helps to lower your cholesterol.
And other oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel for example, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids are not only good for your hair and skin but they have been successfully used to treat depression.