“The winter blues” is a common feeling for many of us. Though the new year brings promise of opportunity for exciting new beginnings, we may suddenly find ourselves saddened for no apparent reason, finding difficulty in enjoying our days as we normally would.
More than 3 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder – otherwise known as SAD – every year.
Prescription medication should only be considered when all other course of action has failed. There are several risks and unwanted side effects with many prescription drugs, not to mention they can be quite costly. So, before going to your doctor, start by trying these treatment methods that have proven to be incredibly effective, are affordable, and best of all – can be done at home! I’ve broken down treatment options to three categories: vitamins and supplements, negative ionization therapy, and light therapy. We will discuss how these methods work and where to buy available, at-home treatment options.
VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS
The best place to start your at home treatment for SAD is with vitamins and supplements. A decrease in the neurotransmitters that regulate happiness (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) is the biggest cause of depression. It is important to note that if you are taking antidepressant medications that increase serotonin levels in your brain (SSRIs such as paxil, prozac and zoloft) it can be very dangerous to add supplemental serotonin. If you are on medication, talk to your doctor first before starting a supplemental regimen to make sure it is safe for you.
- Amino Acids – Amino acids are protein chains that have the strongest effect on increasing serotonin levels. The top three amino acid supplements that fight depression are Tryptophan, SAM-e (s-adenosyl methionine), and L-theanine. All three of these supplements can be purchased at any vitamin store such as GNC or Vitamin Shoppe, but they are a little more expensive. I recommend ordering online or either in store from Walgreens or similar pharmacies, with prices averaging about $15 per bottle. You can also look for combination supplements, but try to avoid any with added amino acid supplements. Theanine also naturally occurs in green tea, and consuming three cups a day can fight depression.
- Vitamins – Vitamins are crucial in regulating neurotransmitter levels. The most important vitamins to add to your regimen are vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D, Magnesium, and Zinc.Vitamin B6 is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. Folic acid is an incredibly effective antidepressant, and a deficiency of it decreases serotonin levels. Zinc increases the brain’s uptake of serotonin, while magnesium regulates its balance. Vitamin C is a serotonin cofactor and is necessary to produce dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies have shown that people who take Vitamin C daily report feeling happier in just one week. Vitamin D has a huge effect on our serotonin levels, and an estimated 77% of Americans are not getting enough. These vitamins can easily be found in a multivitamin form for less than $20 a bottle at Walgreens and similar pharmacies, as well as online.
- DHA – DHA makes serotonin receptors more receptive, and improves overall brain function in general. DHA can be found in foods, but is best absorbed as a supplement – again available low-cost at pharmacies and online.
NEGATIVE ION THERAPY
Nature has a delicate balance between positive and negative ions. Both are emitted naturally, but negative ions are charged with an extra electron and are known to have incredible health benefits. The positive feeling that comes from observing a thunderstorm, for example, is caused by the negative ions emitted from lightning strikes. You can purchase negative ion emitting machines for your home online through websites like Amazon.com, but they tend to rather expensive and their effectiveness is still in research. Creating negative ions in the home can be accomplished in several other ways to create a living space that promotes emotional and mental health.
- Beeswax Candles – Widely known for emitting negative ions and pleasant to burn, beeswax candles are an easy addition to your home. I prefer purchasing them online, where you can order in bulk at a much lower cost.
- Salt Lamps – Though they emit a relatively low amount of negative ions, salt lamps are a lovely house attraction. A collection of salt lamps emits a higher concentration of negative ions.
- Crystals and Stones – Both Tourmaline and Amethyst crystals are known for their health benefits through producing negative ions. Tourmaline emits the highest concentration of negative ions out of any crystal, at about 1,500 per cubic centimeter. Adding Jade to Tourmaline and Amethyst increases their ability to emit negative ions.
Utilizing a combination of these items can create a space that engages the positive forces within your psyche. Light your salt lamps with beeswax candles and surround them with a garden of tourmaline, amethyst, and jade.
By far one of the most effective SAD treatment options is light therapy. One of the main causes of SAD is a lack of sunlight. Not only do we receive less sunlight as the days get shorter, many of us spend less time outdoors because of the cold weather. By and large, the most profound impact has been the addition of light therapy into a daily vitamin routine.
In-home light therapy lamps are sold in a whole range of stores these days at a relatively low cost. They are available at Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as online. Sitting in front of a light therapy lamp for just thirty minutes a day can help correct the body’s natural rhythm and regulate brain function to make up for the lack of sunlight.
Depression can be incredibly overwhelming, and it may seem as if there is no hope. But treating Seasonal Affective Disorder can sometimes be just as easy as making sure to tune into your body’s needs, and supplementing the vitamins and sunlight you are lacking in the winter months. So, before turning to prescription medication, consider arranging a home and a lifestyle for yourself that promotes positivity and a natural ability to fight depression.
Written by Rachel Bessman