What causes seasonal depression and what can you do to address it?

Seasonal affective disorder – also known as SAD – is a type of seasonal depression. It impacts the everyday lives of many people and is a fairly common concern.

In this article, we will explore what causes this potentially debilitating disorder before discussing how to help seasonal depression with natural supplements and lifestyle changes.

What causes seasonal depression?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of recurring depression that is related to the changing seasons.

Exactly what causes seasonal depression is still not completely clear, but it is thought that possible factors include:

● Limited daylight hours – causing a disrupted body clock
● High melatonin levels – causing sleepiness
● Low serotonin levels – causing low moods
● Changes to weather and temperatures – disrupting bodily rhythms

Typically, we think of people who experience seasonal depression as having symptoms in the winter months. However, some people are affected in summer due to heat and humidity.

What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?

People with SAD will experience some of the following symptoms:

● Low mood – feeling sad, hopeless or tearful
● Tiredness and fatigue
● Difficulty concentrating
● Being more prone to physical illnesses, such as colds and infections
● Feeling angry, irritable or anxious
● Lacking energy – feeling sluggish
● Joint and muscle aches
● No motivation to go outside
● No longer enjoying usual hobbies and activities
● Feeling withdrawn and antisocial
● Feeling lonely
● Altered sleeping patterns – either more or less sleep than your ‘normal’
● Altered appetite – eating more or less than your ‘normal’

Seasonal affective disorder is different for different people. You might have other kinds of feelings or physical symptoms which aren’t listed above but are noticeably linked to a season.

If you believe you are experiencing SAD or seasonal depression, then the first step should be a visit to your GP. A diagnosis of SAD is typically based on symptoms that follow a seasonal pattern for two or more years. However, your GP should be able to check that there isn’t another underlying cause – especially if you are experiencing significant physical or psychological symptoms. Your GP can also refer you for talking therapies/counselling or prescribe medication.

How to deal with seasonal depression

Living with seasonal depression can be difficult – especially as it is cyclical and you can anticipate it each year – but there are things you can do to help.

There are no specific seasonal affective disorder treatments – different approaches work for different people:

● Talk to a friend or family member
● Talk to your GP or a healthcare professional
● Call a helpline, such as Samaritans or Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
● Look after your physical health with some gentle exercise
● Get outside in daylight hours
● Eat a healthy, balanced diet
● Try vitamin D for seasonal depression
● Try natural supplements for other symptoms of SAD
● Avoid drugs and alcohol
● Plan for difficult times
● Learn techniques for relaxing and coping with stress

Taking vitamin D for seasonal depression

Vitamin D is an essential hormone for many bodily processes, including mood regulation and specifically serotonin activity – the ‘feel good’ hormone.

In nature, vitamin D is synthesised by the skin following exposure to sunlight. Those with SAD have been found to produce less vitamin D, and being deficient has been linked with significant depressive symptoms

Our vitamin D3 capsules contain D3 as Cholecalciferol, the same type of vitamin D as we get from sunlight. The majority of people do not get sufficient vitamin D, especially during the winter months, and it is therefore important to top-up levels through high-quality supplementation. Vitamin D3 also supports immunity, bones, teeth and muscles.

Research indicates that deficiencies in certain vitamins may increase the risk of depression. As well as taking vitamin D for seasonal depression, other vitamins can help with general mood regulation. For example, vitamins B9, B12 and B6 are needed for the production and regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin as well as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine.

How to treat seasonal depression naturally

While they are not specifically seasonal affective disorder treatments, the following natural supplements may help with certain symptoms of seasonal depression:

Adaptogen Complex 6
With Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Cordyceps, Holy basil, Rhodiola Rosea, Siberian Ginseng. The adaptogenic ingredients work together to reduce symptoms of stress while boosting energy levels.

Ashwagandha – 10% Withanolides
Ashwagandha is an ancient adaptogenic herb, used traditionally in Ayurvedic healing. Ashwagandha promotes relaxation and overall vitality.

Magnesium L-Threonate
Supports learning, memory and cognition – helpful if concentration is impacted.

Marine Magnesium Purified Sea Water & Trace Minerals
Reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Organic Lemon Balm Leaf Extract
Lemon balm is used to support against symptoms of stress, while promoting relaxation and even mood.

Organic Sensoril® 11% Withanolides – Optimized Ashwagandha
The adaptogenic properties of Sensoril support focus and energy. It also reduces cortisol levels which benefits sleep, mood and coping with stress.

Saffron Complex
Improves mood and sleep.

Siberian Ginseng 1.5% Eleutherosides
Improves energy and vitality.

How to help seasonal depression with light therapy

As mentioned, one of the factors thought to contribute to seasonal depression in the winter months is the shorter daylight hours.

People with winter SAD may find it helpful to use a light box that emits strong white or blue light to simulate daylight. This can help trigger the brain to release serotonin which helps to boost your mood.

Others have reported a benefit from light therapy, with a lamp that comes on gradually to simulate dawn to wake up the internal body clock (circadian rhythm).

A natural approach to seasonal affective disorder treatments

Hopefully our article has provided some useful advice on how to help seasonal depression naturally, with vitamins, light and lifestyle changes. Browse our high-quality mood-boosting natural supplements here.