As we are headed into winter, I want to share some things with those of you who may struggle with SAD or even mild-moderate depression (or know someone who does), that have made a huge difference in my life. I did not realize, until we moved from rural Virginia to Boston a little over 3 years ago, that this is something I am prone to. Even though I suffered with moderate-severe depression for a couple years in college! Here are 3 things that have made a huge difference for me in helping keep depression away (as in totally pulling me out of unable-to-get-off-the-couch and know-what-to-do-next kind of SAD that hit me during my first New England winter).
SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN D3
This one makes a huge, huge difference for me! It literally felt like someone turned the light on when I first began supplementing about 2 years ago. I heard another person describe it as feeling like their IQ increased! I take somewhere between 5,000-7,000 IU of Vitamin D daily. I came to this amount based on recommendations from the Vitamin D Council and Grass Roots Health. They both have lots of good information on their websites to help you better understand the benefits of Vitamin D3. GRH even has a handy chart to help you figure out how much you should be supplementing with! I cut back a little in the summer months when I am getting more of Vitamin D naturally (like maybe 4,000 IU daily instead). Really, almost every American would benefit from supplementing Vitamin D3, as the majority of us are deficient.
This is one that has been proven to ease the symptoms of both depression and anxiety! According to the Mayo Clinic it probably helps because it releases feel-good brain chemicals, reduces immune system chemicals that make depressions worse, and oddly enough, increases our body temperature which could have a calming effect on us. I do this outdoors, if at all possible. Seeing sunlight (also proven to fend off depression) is very important for our bodies, even if it is overcast! I walk in the rain and snow if it isn’t too heavy and seriously bundle up to walk in the coldest months! I aim for 20-30 minute walks. As an aside, I read an article a little while ago that suggested that walking daily OUTSIDE keeps our brains from atrophy, even in the elderly!
SUPPLEMENT WITH FISH OIL
Omega-3 fatty acids are oh so important for our bodies, especially our brains, and like Vitamin D, many of us are not getting adequate amounts naturally through our diets. Interestingly, people with depression have lower levels of certain brain chemicals (EPA & DHA) that can be found in fish oil. At the recommendation of a doctor, I recently doubled the amount of fish oil I am taking! This one did not have the nearly immediate impact that Vitamin D and even exercise has had for me, but I believe supplementing with it over time has helped keep depression at bay. I read somewhere, and I can’t find it now, that countries whose fish consumption is the highest have the lowest levels of depression, regardless of their latitude. That sounds pretty powerful to me!
Any time I begin to feel those old dark and hopeless feelings creep back in, usually I have let one of these three areas slip. I only wish I had known about all this sooner. I hope these three “little” suggestions are as life-transformative for some of you, and those you love, as they has been for me!
Until next time!
1. Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495. Accessed Dec. 19, 2014.
2. Hall-Flavin DK. Is there any benefit to taking fish oil supplements for depression? http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/fish-oil-supplements/faq-20058143. Accessed Dec. 19, 2014.