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|Many people look forward to the happy days associated with February and Valentine’s Day treats. Sadness is the last thing that we expect during the month associated with love. Winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than just the blues, it can cause tension, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, lack of concentration, loss of libido, weakened immunity, and insomnia or getting out of bed in the morning. Cravings for carbohydrates, overeating, and weight gain are also common symptoms. Energy levels can decrease and a loss of interest in activities that are ordinarily enjoyed is common as well. When spring returns those with winter depression often feel like themselves again.
In traditional Chinese medicine, winter is a time of slowness and when (yin) the energy of the universe and our own energy (qi) moves inward and slows down. While it is natural to slow down somewhat during this cycle, some slow down too much and winter depression can occur. Qi does move around the body efficiently and the body becomes lethargic and sluggish. Low mood and heavy limbs can be caused by nourishment not reaching the tissues. Weight gain from overeating and carbohydrate cravings can lead to digestion and metabolism to become slow-moving.
Herbs which address liver or Qi stagnation are often used as this is considered the root cause of depression. Astragalus and ginseng can help improve the body’s resistance to physical and environmental stress. Mild exercise without sweating too much helps circulate energy. Eating warm foods and avoiding cold foods is recommended.
Natural approaches include going outside every day to benefit from the sun to increase serotonin production in the body, our natural feel-good chemicals. Foods can help with cravings and avoid unhealthy carbs include, veggies, fruits, egg whites, peanut butter, and cottage cheese. Supplements which can help with winter depression include SAM-e, fish oil, 5-HTP, vitamin D, and vitamin C. Want to try herbs instead? Lemon balm, chamomile tea, valerian root, and St. John’s wort have all been shown to be helpful for depression in the winter months. These herbs all have relaxing qualities, reduce tension, and get a good night’s sleep.