The Vitl Nutrition Team / 13 Jan 2022
For some, winter means cosy evenings by the fire, brisk walks on crisp days and the festive excitement of Christmas. But, for others, it’s a slide into the winter blues with mornings becoming a losing battle with the duvet and the days a blur of caffeine and sweet treats to try to keep us going. For a few, it gets so bad that life is seriously disrupted with depression, lethargy and social withdrawal, symptoms that add up to a serious case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is the kind of depression that can occur as winter approaches and the days get shorter. Its symptoms are almost the same as those of typical depression, but they are inextricably linked to the change of seasons. SAD can affect both women and men, especially those around their 20s.
It is only natural that our moods change when the seasons change. This is because our energy levels, our eating habits and sleeping habits also change. All of these are affected by the change of weather, so it makes sense to need a short adjustment period. But when this bad mood, low energy or loss of interest in certain activities that you normally enjoy persist for more than two weeks and the body (but also brain) refuses to adapt to the new conditions, then there is a chance you are experiencing seasonal depression.
Probably one of the most important reasons for seasonal depression is the reduction of exposure to sunlight and thus the natural reduction in vitamin D levels in the body. One of the roles of this vitamin is to regulate the release of certain hormones from the brain (neurotransmitters) that regulate our emotional reactions and our circadian rhythm. Some critical hormones for the sensation of happiness and regulation of sleep are serotonin and melatonin.
So... how can you put some colour back into your life?
It is highly recommended to seek help from a specialist if you notice that these feelings become dangerous, such as having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, but also when they begin to affect your daily life. For example, changes in sleep and hygiene habits are two very common examples that may be worth looking out for.
In addition to psychotherapy, light therapy is recommended by many experts to treat seasonal depression. The bulbs used in light therapy are similar to sunlight and in turn can help with the symptoms. Obviously, going out more, even for a ten-minute walk in the morning, will help - not only for the sunshine, but also for your mood in general; we all now know how it feels to be locked in four walls for so long.
Exercise, as in typical depression, is one of the best "medicines" available to us. Especially those days when fitness is at the bottom of the list of things we are eager to do, these are usually the days we need it the most.
A large proportion of the UK population is deficient in Vitamin D over the winter months due to lack of hours in the sunshine. As the main source of vitamin D is the sun (you can also find some in oily fish, mushrooms and eggs), the government recommends that everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter. Check our vegan vitamin D pocket packs here, which provide 25 mcg of the active form of vitamin D3 (the best form you could choose!)
Being healthy plays a huge role in our overall wellness, and with winter marking the start of colds and flu season, it is important to follow a diet rich in nutrients that support your immune function. Zinc, vitamin C, D and selenium are key vitamins and minerals for this.
If you are struggling with getting out of your bed, or those post-lunch slumps make it difficult for you to function day-to-day, try supplementing with B vitamins (including vitamin B12 and folate). B vitamins are involved in normal energy release from food, and reduction of tiredness and fatigue, making them a great ally when fighting those winter blues. You can have a look at our Rise & Energise here, formulated exactly for supporting your energy levels.
You might also be interested in: