Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression occurring at certain times of the year. SAD usually occurs during the late fall or winter months. It is believed to be caused by lack of sunlight since it occurs in higher frequencies in latitudes farther from the equator, where hours of sunlight are less during the winter. It may also be related to a drop in serotonin levels. Even young children can suffer from SAD. Here are the top three things you can do to help support your kids and keep them feeling great during the winter months.
Because SAD is believed to be connected to limited light exposure, make sure that your children spend some time outdoors during winter daylight hours. Yes, it will be cold, but bundle them up properly and the sun exposure will do them good. Encourage them to get light exposure directly into their eyes (in other words, forgo the sunglasses). This is because light exposure, particularly bright light, through the eyes boost serotonin activity. You may want to make a point of having your children go out on weekends during the winter, as they will likely be shut in at school during the weekday daylight hours. If desired you can also buy special lights that are meant for treating SAD. Light therapy has helped many people who suffer from SAD.
While it may be difficult for your children to play outside in the winter, the activity and sunlight will be very beneficial. This is because exercise and physical activity is a great way to fight depression, even SAD. You may find it effective to provide a space in your house for your children to be physically active. A partially finished basement or a room that you don’t need to keep in the best shape is perfect for this. You could put a small basketball hoop in this room or provide other activities that will encourage your children to be active. If provided with space and encouraged to be active, many children will jump at the opportunity.
Lastly, proper diet is important in the treatment of SAD. As with all depression, make sure your children limit the amount of sweets and simple carbs that they eat. Eating a healthy, whole-food diet, low in processed food and artificial ingredients, can help to address nutrient deficiencies that may be exacerbating SAD symptoms.
Consuming foods rich in Vitamin D and DHA may be particularly helpful in treating SAD. Vitamin D is produced easily in the summer sun by our bodies, but is limited in the winter, due to the angle of the sun and the reduced hours of sunlight. Fish and other types of seafood are high in both Vitamin D and the essential omega 3 fatty acid DHA. Both are commonly consumed by certain cultures who have a lower prevalence of SAD, despite living in latitudes far from the equator. Vitamin D can also be found in dairy products (be sure to choose organic in order to avoid added hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals), eggs, and mushrooms (especially portabellas which are raised under appropriate conditions – these are sometimes found in the grocery store under the label “sun-bella”).
If you feel that your kids may not be getting the Vitamin D they need through their diet, you could ask your doctor to have their levels checked. Your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement for the winter months.
Try some of these ideas to help keep SAD away from your household and to get your kids through the winter blues. Don’t forget to smile and take time to relax so you can your family can enjoy a healthy and happy winter.
Josiah Garber enjoys studying and pursuing health and nutrition. He works as Manager of Technology at Medical Support Products an online respiratory equipment and supplies company.