January comes as a difficult time for most adults, and this is no different for us at Concho Valley Chiropractic. It’s the interim time following the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, but the cold weather still limits many of our favorite activities. It’s a time of back to work, back to school, and usually back to the mundane. Beyond that, from a physiological perspective, seasonal depression is very real, and can substantially change our mental health. Often downplayed, and called “The Winter Blues,” Seasonal Affective Disorder lowers the quality of life for many Americans in the fall and winter months. So, for our first blog post of the year let’s look at some of the science behind seasonal affective disorder and some simple things we can do to treat it.
At Concho Valley Chiropractic we frequently discuss dietary changes with our patients to help them reach their goals. While chiropractors in Texas focus on treating musculoskeletal conditions, it should not come as a surprise that our diet plays a huge role in all aspects of health. Dietary changes with seasonal affective disorder have been well documented, with studies from NIH demonstrating there is a strong correlation between seasonal depression and larger, more carbohydrate-dense meals. Also, independent studies have found a very strong correlation between seasonal depression and vitamin D deficiency. Some foods to ensure are in your diet this time of year are fatty fish, nuts, fruit, and even dark chocolate for mood elevation.
Usually during the winter months exercise is one of the first preventative health habits to go. It’s difficult to venture out in the cold, and some of the best outdoor activities are not available. This directly impacts many areas of life such as: time spent socially, Vitamin-D absorption from the sun, and cardiovascular health. Putting these things on the back burner has direct mental health consequences. We often speak to our patients here in San Angelo, who tell us that they are too tired or do not have time to exercise. And while it may not be convenient in the current winter situation, keeping a regular exercise routine through the winter months is essential for both good physical and mental health.
During the fall and winter time changes, daylight hours, and work schedules can be big detriments to good sleep hygiene. With that being said, a strong relation between Seasonal Affective Disorder and insomnia is frequently seen. Sometimes it appears to work where bad sleep habits are leading to depressive tendencies, but in other cases the reverse situation is true. Sleep disturbances are one of the most common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. So, taking tangible steps to offset the seasonal causes of depression might be the best thing for improving the ability to sleep.
Light restriction is one of the leading mechanisms for explaining seasonal patterns of depression. While unfortunate, we can use this knowledge to apply light as a treatment for therapeutic benefits. Two good instances are outdoor activities or phototherapy. We are blessed here in San Angelo, that even during the winter months the temperatures can be tolerable outside. Take advantage of these days and get some sunshine and be active outside. But maybe you live in a part of the world where the conditions aren’t as accommodating. One of the best treatments for this is called phototherapy or using a special light to mimic the sun in your home or workplace. Studies have found that by emulating the light from the sun many of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective disorder can be ameliorated.
In recent times, awareness of mental health conditions has greatly increased, but it still needs to be taken very seriously. If you are reading this and struggling with depression or other mental health-related disorders, we encourage you to seek help from your healthcare provider. One of our goals for our patients in San Angelo is to help people connect the dots in how their lifestyle choices impact our health. So, when you examine your day-to-day routine try and think about how it impacts the health challenges you are currently facing.