Treating Winter Depression Naturally

Winter blues getting you down? It’s no joke and you aren’t alone. Around 5% of the US population (that’s 16 million Americans) experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD) that last 40% of the year. Most of the time, those with SAD report the most severe symptoms beginning in the late fall and lasting throughout winter. These symptoms include excessive sleeping or sleepiness, feelings of hopelessness and depressed mood, social withdrawal and isolation, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain.


What causes seasonal depression?

The causes of winter depression are still not fully understood, but there is evidence to support that the exposure to fewer daylight hours influences your body’s circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake cycle) and causes feelings of depression. Some studies suggest that people with SAD may have more of a serotonin transporter protein than those who don’t suffer seasonal depression. This transporter leaves less serotonin (a mood boosting neurotransmitter) available in your brain’s synapses. Melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone, can also be affected by the reduced sunlight available in the winter months, and this reduced sunlight may also affect serotonin levels.


What are some natural remedies for seasonal depression?

There are many natural ways to treat SAD, with light therapy being the most popular. This is the use of a special light therapy box (usually in the morning) to introduce bright light that helps your body to better regulate its cycle (when to feel awake and when to feel sleepy). I also love to recommend exercise for depression, and it also helps with sleep regulation problems. The hardest part about recommending exercise to someone who is feeling down is that they don’t feel like doing anything! But, once started, even a light 30-minute daily walk, dancing, or even stretching is a mood-enhancing lifesaver. In addition, studies also show that yoga and acupuncture can relieve symptoms of seasonal depression. In addition try the following:


Eat a happy healthful diet We are used to thinking about winter comfort foods to make us feel better (mac and cheese anyone?), but actually refined carbs and sugars can bring you down to the mental dumps. Some comfort foods, high in saturated fat or sugar, can lead us filling worse. Instead, focus on foods high in omega 3 fats, which have been found to improve depression, along with high vitamin D foods that help fight SAD or seasonal affective disorder.

These include nuts, seeds, and fatty fishes like salmon or tuna.  Improving protein intake is also important for depression. Lean meat, protein smoothies and beans, and lentils are all excellent sources of protein needed to help build the neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that fight depression.

Try the following supplements

The Omega 3 Fats:  2-3 grams per day

Vitamin D: 5000 IU per day

Probiotic: 100 billion cfa per day


Get to the point As an acupuncturist, I’ve seen firsthand how needling treatment can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Remember, that acupuncture is used to increase and balance your flow of energy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, practitioners believe that depression is a sign of blocked Qi (life energy). To find a certified acupuncturist in your area visit this site.


Talk to someone: Tell someone you love how you are feeling. It seems simple, but just talking about what’s going on inside your head is often a great starting point for letting go of negative feelings. Tell your partner, call a friend, or go see your mother. Problems often feel much more overwhelming when you try to address them alone.


When to seek help: If you find that even a simple, basic task (making a phone call) is overwhelming, or that you can’t even get out of bed to shower or get dressed—you just want to hide—you may need some extra help. I encourage you to talk with your primary care doctor, and discuss a referral for therapy. It’s especially important to seek outside help if you are abusing alcohol or substances, or having suicidal feelings. You can also find a therapist directly through the American Psychological Association.

If you are concerned about depression in your child, please talk to your pediatrician.