You might have seasonal affective disorder and not even know it. Here's what to do


By Nataliya Schafer  

We know that too much time spent in the sun can be bad for our skin, but not enough time in the sun can be bad for our body and mind.

During the summer, we have picnics, go on bike rides, swim, take long walks, soak up the sunlight, and generally spend lots of time being active.

During fall and winter, it gets dark earlier and light later, meaning it’s possible to spend all daylight hours working indoors. It’s cold –sometimes really cold – and windy, and wet. Who wants to deal with that?

Spending the night under that thick blanket on the couch with House of Cards on a frigid Friday night is just so much more appealing than taking the bus across town to ultimately wait in a long line at a restaurant/bar during a deep freeze.

If you’re usually a go-go-type person in the summer but feel like you couldn’t drag yourself off the couch if your job depended on it in the winter months, then you have a problem – you may have Seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD or winter depression) isn’t fully understood, but it’s believed to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight. We know that sunlight can affect the brain’s chemicals; we don’t exactly know what this effect is, but it likely has a lot to do with vitamin D

Sunlight is one of our body’s best and only sources of vitamin D. When there’s less of it and when our bodies are bundled up in layers or hidden in warm houses, it’s impossible to absorb any solar vitamin D.

Lack of sunlight can increase the production of melatonin (the body’s sleep chemical), leaving a person with SAD feeling much more exhausted during the winter months. It can also decrease serotonin (the body’s feel-good chemical that also regulates appetite, memory, mood, and sleep) production.

All in all, SAD can make someone who’s a ray of sunshine in the summer months a hungry, unfocused, sleep-deprived, depressed grump.

But, make no mistake – depression of any kind, be it seasonal or year-round, is no joke. SAD isn’t less real than those with year-round depression just because it only happens for certain parts of the year. The symptoms are all the same and they are just as painful.

Below is a list of some foods that may help boost vitamin D levels in people with SAD:

Sometimes eating vitamin D-rich foods just isn’t enough, and that is totally normal.

Other options include vitamin D supplements, cod liver oil (500IUs per teaspoon), Ultravoilet lamps, or even antidepressants are all viable treatments, but you should talk to your doctor about which is right for you if you think you might have SAD.

Nataliya works in Toronto and is obsessed with her dog, as you can see on her Instagram @nataliya.schafer. She is discovering the world of weightlifting after years of boring elliptical-only workouts. She loves to horseback ride and laughs at people who say it isn’t a workout because “the horse does everything.” She loves a good deal–even if it’s on something she doesn’t need.