Alexis Varady, DC, CD, CPD, CBC
How to Kick Seasonal Depression
Here in Kentucky, it quickly becomes cold season. Some people look forward to this season but for many, the beginning of this season always brings a feeling of sadness for what is to come for our mental health. Simply put, this season has such as impact on mental health because for generations, we have isolated ourselves from it. With the invention of heat-controlled living conditions combined with access to the newest technology for staying warm while you're out, we have become slightly incapable of handling the harsh conditions of winter and more than that, a lot of us just don't want to! The feeling of putting your hand on a doorknob knowing that when you open the door, you will be hit with a gush of bone chilling cold air, gives many people an instant gut wrench.
Isolation from the cold in turn means isolation from the sun. Vitamin D is produced in the body when sun shines directly on your skin (not through a window), thus isolation from the sun means we aren't producing as much Vitamin D. Vitamin D affects many of our neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, and for this reason, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many mental health disorders (i.e. OCD, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Autism, Depression, and Anxiety).
Moving from South Carolina straight into the most severe ice storm I've ever experienced in Richmond, KY made me realize I needed to quickly figure out how to embrace the season so I wouldn't suffer from the lack of Vitamin D. Increasing your vitamin D is easy when it is sunny out, but in the bitter cold season it can be difficult to accomplish. Here's a few ways I managed to embrace the cold season:
Get Vitamin D from Food Sources!
There are many natural sources of vitamin D as well as many foods that are fortified with Vitamin D. Here are a few easy sources:
Fatty Fish: tuna, salmon (or fish oils)
Sensitize Yourself to the Cold!
Turning your shower to cold (below 70 degrees) for a few minutes at the end of your shower can help your body adapt better to the colder conditions outside. On top of this, cold showers can be great for increasing endorphins, improving your metabolism, improving circulation, and improving your immune system.
Stand outside in the cold for a few minutes each morning. Try to get in some sunlight if possible!
Lie to Yourself.
Every time you put your hand on the door handle to go outside, convince yourself that you love the cold. When you step out into the cold air, tell yourself that you like the feeling on your skin. Smile as you walk to your car and tell yourself that the cold makes you happy. Our brain and body are so connected that eventually your body will not react to cold the same way because your brain senses it as something you enjoy. And eventually, it will not be a lie.
Find your Favorite Things about Cold Season and do them...OFTEN!
My favorite things about cold season: hoodies, soups, the way the house brightens up after it snows, fireplaces, winter movies under a fluffy blanket, hot chocolate.
Give yourself the gift of winter rather than dread it.
Our body, mind, and spirit are one cohesive unit. Being kind to one can help the entire system work more cohesively. Make one small change at a time and see how large of an overall change you can make in your winter seasons this year and every year to come.