Fall is a time of changing leaves, yummy flavors, and cooler weather. While we may embrace cozying up by the fire with a warm apple cider, we may be surprised to notice as the days get shorter, that we may be feeling more “blah.”
If the “blahs” become more serious, and you feel depressed, anxious, agitated, hopeless, and experience changes in appetite or sleep, you may be one of the more than three million people in the US that experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which rears its ugly head around the same time each year.
On the positive side, knowing we are susceptible to SAD can help us prepare and avoid the worst by making changes to our activities and environment that will help boost the levels of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is the main “feel good” hormone which naturally combats anxiety and depression.
Here are a few ways to increase your serotonin and boost your mood this upcoming Fall:
Sunlight entering your eyes stimulates the parts of your retina that tell your brain to make serotonin. In addition, when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D, which activates an enzyme that converts the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin in the brain!
During the Fall months, as the days get shorter, getting that important sunlight can be more difficult. As temperatures drop, we cover more of our skin with clothing. And as Daylight Savings Time ends, full-time workers arrive at the office as the sun is beginning to rise and leave after the sun has already set.
If you are one of the lucky few that have windows in your office, open those blinds! Let natural light fill the space you’re occupying as much as possible during the daytime. If not, be sure to take breaks to walk around outside during the workday. Movement increases serotonin in your brain, and when coupled with sunlight, gives you an extra lift. Exercise also supports bone health and helps to lower blood pressure.
If it’s not possible to get outdoors into natural light, green light therapy can be a helpful option, providing similar antidepressant effects to natural light. Use a dichroic green light (150 W PAR 38) regularly for at least 20 minutes before falling asleep and after waking up. Green light will help rebalance the pineal control center, resulting in less harmful impacts from stress and an overall better-regulated mood.
As mentioned above, getting your body moving every day is a great way to increase serotonin and improve mood. Exercise doesn’t have to mean jogging or going to the gym; you’ll move more if you find an activity you enjoy!
Some fun ideas for getting your body moving include (but are not limited to):
- Jumping rope
- Roller skating
- Ice Skating
- Visiting a climbing gym
Speaking of dancing, it is an amazingly effective way to increase the production of serotonin in your body. Turn up your favorite tunes and dance like nobody’s watching! Aside from it being a ton of fun, dancing can improve the condition of your heart and lungs, build muscle tone and strength, and maintain healthy bones to lower your risk of osteoporosis.
Maintain a Healthy Gut
Did you know that the bacteria in your gut produce more than 90% of the serotonin in your body? So, another way to maintain a positive mood is by maintaining a healthy gut.
Choose foods that are organic and natural rather than processed and filled with chemicals and anti-nutrients. Follow the principles of Natures pHarmacy to select foods
that will boost energy production while reducing inflammation.
Supplement Key Nutrients
Even if you’re eating a diet loaded with vitamins and minerals, it’s not always possible to get all of the nutrients you need from diet alone. Everyone’s supplement list should at the very least include a multivitamin, vitamin D3, vitamin C, and omega 3 fatty acids.
We mentioned above that vitamin D converts tryptophan to serotonin in the brain, but in the fall, with the sun low in the sky and our skin covered up, it’s difficult to get the vitamin D we need exclusively from the sun. Supplementing with D3, the active form of vitamin D has been shown to boost mood in winter.
Supplementing with a high-quality vitamin C will help you stave off winter colds, but it can also help reverse the “blahs.” A study of male college students in New Zealand showed that high vitamin C levels corresponded with elevated mood.
Finally, the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are needed for normal brain function, and many people do not get enough of these vital anti-inflammatory nutrients. There is considerable research that shows that there can be improvement in depressive symptoms with fish-oil supplements.
As the fall season settles in and the leaves begin to turn, you can use these tips to help avoid the blues and blahs. Get outdoors and let the sun in as much as possible. Use dichroic green light therapy when natural light isn’t easily accessible. Choose your favorite type of movement and exercise, maintain a healthy gut, and supplement key nutrients and you will be well prepared to weather the seasonal changes ahead.