GIVE YOUR BRAIN A PRESENT: WINTER, COVID, AND YOUR MOOD
Winter is always hard on our moods because the increased darkness between September and March suppresses our brains’ output of serotonin, our natural antidepressant. This winter it’s particularly important to find ways to combat depression, because COVID-19 is making our seasonal mood problems worse than usual.*
• Covid-related stress, anxiety, and depression have already become widespread.
• Those who have had a new psychiatric condition diagnosed in the prior twelve months have a 65 percent higher incidence of infection.
• One to two times more of those with normal moods develop chronic anxiety within three months following a COVID-19 infection (compared with those who contract non-COVID health problems). The risk of depression and insomnia also rises after a COVID-19 infection, but less so.
OUR INNER SUN
Our brains’ most potent natural antidote to anxiety, depression, and insomnia is the neurotransmitter serotonin. We know that serotonin levels drop during the dark months, but that sunshine literally raises our spirits by stimulating a rise in those levels.
We can also get a temporary serotonin brain-burst when we eat sweets. That’s why we’re especially drawn to candy and cookies during the winter holidays. Obviously, these “treats” have serious drawbacks for the over-50-percent of us who are obese or diabetic and therefore more vulnerable to the virus. (Diabetes was already associated with 50 percent depression rates pre-COVID!)
GIVE YOUR BRAIN A PRESENT
There are potentially much safer, brighter, and more permanent serotonin solutions than See’s candy:
• Increase the protein content of your meals. (More turkey!) One of the 20 amino acids that make up protein is the only nutrient that serotonin can be made from.
• You can supplement with that serotonin-specific amino acid and the vitamin D that also supports serotonin-production:
o The serotonin-boosting amino comes in two forms: Tryptophan and 5-HTP. Supplements of both are readily available at most health venues (including at our store). See Chapter 12 in The Craving Cure for how to trial and dose. Or request an Amino Aid Express Packet
o Levels of “sunshine” vitamin D can be easily tested (and supplemented, if needed): Your physician will be happy to order an inexpensive 250HD test. Or you can order a LabCorp test yourself at walk in or DHA Labs.
• Get outdoor exercise. It’s brighter outside, even on a winter day, than under any ordinary indoor lighting and exercise raises serotonin levels, all by itself.
• You can get very bright artificial light that raises serotonin from a therapeutic lamp (order one online that gives up to 10,000 lux).
These are all effective mood helpers and they take effect quickly!
If you’d like to have some help implementing any of these suggestions: Set up a meeting with one of my virtual clinic’s elves (AKA experienced nutritionists).
For a Happier Holiday,
* Reference: Link to 2020 study.