Autumn and winter. Dark and threatening, depression!!!! Winter blues. In autumn and winter there is less light during the day and the light has a lower intensity, which probably leads to disruption of the biological clock and abnormal production of neurotransmitters, too much melatonin during the day and too little serotonin.
Symptoms of winter blues
Symptoms of winter depression include depression, irritability, excessive sleeping, fatigue, concentration problems and (strongly) increased appetite; With winter blues the complaints are milder. Complaints only occur in the period from October to April, January and February are usually the most difficult months to get through. With spring, the complaints disappear like snow in the sun.
Winter depression apparently becomes more common as people live further away from the equator and affects women four times more often than men. Genetics probably play a role: the risk of winter depression is greater if family members also suffer from it. The complaints begin on average between the ages of twenty and thirty and diminish or disappear when people are fifty to sixty years old.
How to remedy?
Winter blues and winter depression are helped by healthy eating, exercise (outdoors during the day), a sun holiday and ensuring enough light at home and at work. Depressive symptoms decrease when people exercise more; the combination of sports and light therapy gives better results than light therapy alone. The difficult thing is that people with winter depression are hardly able to get themselves back on their feet. They have more negative thoughts throughout the year compared to people without the winter blues.
Simple measures against winter blues
- Provide as much natural light as possible in your home.
- Take a walk every day, even if it is just 10 minutes. British research shows that the symptoms of winter blues are reduced if you walk for ten minutes every day.
- Don’t wear sunglasses.
- Going on holiday to a sunny destination, winter sports?!
Herbs against winter blues.
I am not going to claim here that herbs or other medicines are the ideal therapy for winter blues. The therapy remains, going outside and moving. Still, St. John’s wort is an interesting plant to use as a supplement. It is effective for mild to moderate depression and also works well for winter depression. It works just as well as fluoxetine and light therapy. There is no point in combining St. John’s wort with light therapy; results are no better than use alone. The combination is not even recommended as St. John’s wort can make the skin hypersensitive to light (photosensitizing effect). Now, this light sensitivity may be the reason why hypericum is effective against winter blues. Quite logical, St. John’s wort ensures that you use the little light more efficiently. Someone once called it positively sensitizing.
Other herbs against winter blues: adaptogens
Adaptogens such as rose root and ginseng are especially useful for winter blues. As the word adaptogen already suggests, they have some regulatory effect on neurotransmitters, so they ensure that a person can better adapt to changing circumstances, such as the seasons. Certain ajurvedic herbs such as Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also work on the nervous system and restore the balance between the five elements ether, air, fire, water and earth.
Essential oil is packaged summer sun, which you can unpack and use in the winter. Why does it work? Because not only light but possibly also scent influences our mood. The heavy, somewhat musty and not always unpleasant smell of rotting autumn leaves apparently has a depressing effect on some people and fresh summer scents can compensate for that.
Citrus oils, essential oils such as orange, lemon and grapefruit, but even better in my opinion are the essential oils of rosemary, thyme and lemon balm. Although it is better to use balm as a herbal tea. Oh well, stimulating and depressing smells, that’s the theory, which seems to be correct in practice and which scientists can investigate further.
Make your own mix of nuts and seeds, raisins and a little dark chocolate. Take a small handful when you eat it, so that your body receives a constant but not too high supply of slow-acting fuel and therefore energy. Of course, combine it with exercising outside.
Winter blues, SAD, Seasonal affective disorder. Does that even exist? Who made that up? Get rid of the winter blues.