You are poor. You aren’t getting any younger. Your love life is nonexistent – these are all perfectly valid reasons for being sad, but have you ever thought a spot of rain could be to blame?
SAD, or ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’, is a mood disorder thought to affect half a million people every winter, with seasonal variations in light creating confusion in the body’s biological clock. The less daylight hours, the more likely SAD is to manifest itself.
Any age and gender is susceptible, but the most common sufferers are women aged between 18 and 30.
While not being named as an official disorder until 1985, SAD was made aware to scientists in 1845 when they noted that the reproductive and hibernation schedules of animals were disrupted by disturbances in sunlight.
There are many shades of grey, making it hard to prove whether you’re a sufferer or merely a hypochondriac, but there are symptoms:
Are you SAD?
• Do you feel apathetic or lethargic?
• Do you binge on junk food?
• Do you seek to avoid social contact?
• Do you have unnatural sleep patterns?
• Have you lost your libido?
Apart from the obvious night-out-in-Ocean trick to cure that last one, there is a range of ways you can get back that happy feeling. Firstly, you can take your mum’s advice and eat right: wholegrain foods, milk, turkey, and fatty acids found in fish all contain nutrients that support the brain’s neurotransmitter function.
Exercise produces the chemical serotonin, which is another good natural defence; 30 minutes of being active a day should do the trick.
Finally, if you know where to look, the herbs Ginkgo Biloba and St. John’s Wort, and vitamins B, C and D (found in eggs, citrus fruits and cereal, respectively) are all perfect guards against the winter blues.
It’s easier said than done in England, but increasing the amount of time spent absorbing natural sunlight has been proven to suppress the secretion of melatonin – a hormone linked to depression and produced at increased levels in the dark. Vitamin D forms naturally under the skin in reaction to sunlight, so if you want, kill two birds with one stone and take a bowl of cornflakes with you sunbathing.
SAD is a little-known disorder. Sufferers are often accused of being glum but are sometimes genuinely debilitated. Doctors can prescribe antidepressant medication but due to unpleasant side effects, you can’t top these great natural solutions. Just because the sun isn’t smiling doesn’t mean you can’t!