SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects 10-20% of Americans during the winter months. Research shows that SAD, also known as the “winter blues”, is due to the decrease in sunlight available during the autumn and winter months. Because there is a decrease in sunlight, there’s an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, contributing to depression-like symptoms.
Lead researcher Brenda McMahon and her colleagues, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, presented findings in 2014 at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress in Berlin, Germany. Such findings followed 11 people with SAD and 23 people without SAD during the summer and winter months to see how the levels of serotonin and SERT (serotonin transporter) proteins changed during the seasons.
The results showed that those with SAD had 5% higher levels of SERT proteins during the winter than in the summer. Those without SAD had unaffected SERT and serotonin levels. “SERT carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active, so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin,” explains McMahon. This seems to offer confirmation that SERT is associated with SAD.
Robert Tisserand and Psychology Today discuss how serotonin, melatonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters) are all contributors to the symptoms of SAD. They also offer ways that you can naturally increase these levels during the winter when sunlight is not highly available.
Here’s some great ways to increase those neurotransmitters for overall improved mood during the winter months:
- Vitamin D Supplementation
- Sunlight or Light Therapy
- Recall Happier Times!
- Essential Oils
- Stimuating Oils (black pepper, grapefruit, jasmine, lemon, rosemary)
- Calming Oils (bergamot, clary sage, orange, rose, sandalwood)
Coral A.J. Gibson