Chasing Away the Winter Blues by Dr. Zach Taylor, DC, ACSM-EP

By Dr Ernst
December 5, 2023

As winter draws closer, the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, many individuals find themselves grappling with more than just the chill in the air. The arrival of the winter season often brings on the onset of what is commonly known as the “Winter Blues”, or, in its more pronounced form Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). As sunlight gets shorter and the temperature starts to drop, a subtle shift turns in the psyche of those individuals who are susceptible to the changes. This article we are going to dive into why SAD is real thing that people suffer with and what you can do to minimize and potentially eliminate your chances of suffering from SAD.

SAD is more prevalent than one might realize, affecting a significant portion of the population. Typically striking during the fall and winter months, when daylight hours dwindle, it’s estimated that around 5% of adults in the United States experience SAD, with a higher prevalence among women. Additionally, a larger percentage of individuals may suffer from a milder form often referred to as the “winter blues.” The lack of sunlight during these seasons is believed to disrupt circadian rhythms and neurotransmitter levels, contributing to the onset of depressive symptoms.

Let’s dive into some of the things that you can do proactively right now to combat any winter blues that may want to creep into your psyche.

1. View early morning sunlight. Viewing sunlight within the first hour of waking will trigger an early cortisol release which is ideal for the body and will prepare the body for sleep later in the day. A morning spike of cortisol will also positively influence your immune system and metabolism and will increase your ability to focus throughout the day. Aim for a minimum of 15-20 minutes. I shouldn’t have to say this but please do not stare directly into the sun.

2. Move your body. I am a firm believer and movement being medicine. Your body was created to move. We have become such a sedentary nation. Getting up off your chair and spending even just 10 minutes moving can do your body. The current recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine states 30-60 minutes of exercise a day is sufficient to give your body the cardiovascular benefits it needs. The best exercise routine is the one that you can stick with and is fun for you. One way to challenge yourself is track your daily steps. A good goal to aim for is 10,000 steps per day!

3. Incorporate meditation or another similar practice that focuses on reducing stress in your body. This can promote relaxation and mindfulness. Meditation can activate your body’s relaxation response and can help lower cortisol and reduce your body’s overall stress response. Stress is our bodies kryptonite so incorporating a daily practice to reduce the stress response on the body has been shown to positively impact your immune system as well.

4. Get yourself adjusted regularly. Adjustments keep the pressure off your nervous system and allow your brain and body to fully communicate back and forth. Research has shown that after a chiropractic adjustment your brain gets flooded with endorphins (feel good molecules) and also reduces the bodies stress response. In addition to endorphins being release, your body also releases dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin after an adjustment. All these hormones can have a positive impact on your mood and brain health.

5. Use supplements to your advantage. Decreased melatonin levels have been found to be a contributing factor to SAD, so supplement with this seems to be a good first step. Research has shown that taking melatonin at the correct time can more than double improve your depression score. 

Omega 3 Fish oil is another supplement that can help improve your SAD. Fish Oil has been proven scientifically to prevent and decrease symptoms of depression. EPA and DHA are 2 types of omega 3 fish oil and they both play and important role in brain function and mood and there is a ton of research linking low levels of these to mental and emotional disorders, including SAD.
Vitamin D is another vitamin to consider when you’re dealing with the “winter blues”. Vitamin D is referred to as the sunshine vitamin, and low levels of this vitamin has been linked to SAD. Most adults are believed to have low levels of vitamin D especially those with darker skin, live in the northern part of the country, and those who are overweight have an even greater risk for deficiency.

Utilize these 5 tips to reduce the strain of the “winter blues” on your body. And remember being proactive with your health is paramount in fostering overall well-being. I hope through this article you will find hope going into this season and maybe if you don’t specifically struggle with this particular ailment, maybe a loved one or a close friend does. Share this article with them to show them they’re not alone.

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