A psychiatrist says: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually strikes in the fall or winter. Doctors believe people develop SAD when neuro-transmitters—especially the mood regulator serotonin and the “sleep hormone” melatonin—are disrupted by the lack of light, shorter days and cooler temperatures.
TREATMENT: Try phototherapy with a SunBox light box or another suitable brand that reaches a luminosity of 10,000 lux (equal in intensity to the sunlight on a clear spring morning) and filters out UV rays. Sit at arm’s length from the box for 30 minutes each morning, facing it directly, but protecting your eyes by looking down or reading a book. Also, try walking in the early-morning light for a half hour every day. If symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend supplements such as vitamin D, or an antidepressant if SAD is severe.
—Ronald R. Parks, M.D., specialist in integrative psychiatry and medicine in Asheville, N.C.
An ayurvedic physician says: In ayurveda, SAD is considered an imbalance of the vata dosha, one of the three physiological forces of the body. Dosha is aggravated by cold, dry and changing weather patterns. The imbalance peaks when the days are shortest; this disturbs the neurohormonal system of the body, causing melancholy and depression.
TREATMENT: Daily use of the ayurvedic herb Bacopa monnieri helps restore neurohormonal balance by improving concen-tration and alleviating anxiety. Massaging sweet and spicy essential oils like cinnamon, sandalwood and jasmine above your eyebrows and at the crown of your head can also improve circulation of prana, or life energy, and brighten your outlook. Finally, try this meditation: Spend five quiet minutes each morning staring at and reflecting on the color gold. The vibration of the color is similar to natural light and can build stability, as its hue is a balance between fire and earth.
—Marc Halpern, D.C., director of the California College of Ayurveda in Cerritos, Calif., and author of Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda
A homeopath says:
The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person and can occur in winter or summer, but generally are caused by your mood, metabolism and other bodily systems being affected by the change in season. While the condition is more prevalent in fall and winter when available light decreases, up to 2% of people may have symptoms of “reverse seasonal affective disorder” or “summer SAD” during spring and summer. These people usually live in hotter climates.
TREATMENT: If you’re irritable and tend to isolate yourself from friends and family, try sepia, a remedy made from squid ink. (The standard dosage is 30C three times a day for two days.) If there’s no improvement, try Aurum metallicum; also known as metallic gold, it can help to calm feelings of depression. Phosphorus is a good choice if you feel worse on cloudy days, while Rhus tox, made from poison ivy, relieves the back and joint stiffness often provoked by rain. And if you crave carbohydrates, especially chocolate, you may be deficient in magnesium—a mineral that’s involved in the synthesis of serotonin. Take some Magnesium phosphorica; it can clear your cravings within days. Note that the key is to treat the dominant symptom—so you may have to change remedies frequently.
—Gayle Eversole, D.Hom., Ph.D., M.H., N.P., N.D., founder of the Creating Health Institute based in the Pacific Northwest