Often described as the 'winter blues' or 'winter depression', Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) is a type of depression which comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It's something which affects around 2 million people in the UK, with symptoms including a persistent low mood, a loss of interest in everyday activities, feelings of despair, a lack of energy, craving carbohydrates and more.
While the causes of SAD aren't completely understood, according to the NHS it's linked to the amount of sun we're exposed to (or lack thereof) during the shorter autumn and winter days. Experts believe that the lack of sunlight prevents the hypothalamus part of our brain from working how it should, which can impact the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you tired), the production of serotonin (the hormone that controls your mood) and your body's internal clock.
Given that we're currently deep into the cold, dark days of winter, one doctor has taken to TikTok to share his top tips for tackling SAD. Speaking to his 235 million followers on the social platform, Dr Karan Raj said: "If your mood and energy levels have dropped this winter, try this for a boost and make sure you get the D - vitamin D."
"Vitamin D regulates your mood and serotonin release," explains Dr Raj, "less light [in winter] means less Vitamin D." He also adds that we "don't get a lot of Vitamin D from our food, so recommends supplementing this where possible.
Other tips he advises to combat SAD include socialising with friends, IRL or virtually if you can't meet up. "Socialising has a positive impact on the brain," he points out, adding that doing so can release oxytocin which is "the same neurotransmitter released during an orgasm."
Exercise, Dr Raj continues, is another great way to tackle symptoms of SAD as this "helps to produce endorphins which are natural painkillers and mood elevators."
His recommendations clearly went down a treat with fellow TikTokers, who took to the comments section to share how they'd helped. "Was literally in such a funk today and went to the gym, it lifted me right out of it," said one TikTok user.
TikTok tips aside, although some people will be able to manage the symptoms of SAD through lifestyle changes like those recommended by Dr Raj, it's important to speak to a GP if you're struggling to cope or find that your symptoms are impacting your ability to carry out day-to-day activities, as they can prescribe antidepressants or talking therapy.
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