Are you one of the half a million Americans each year that suffer from the winter blues? More than just feeling a little down, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now an accepted clinical condition brought on by a lack of natural daylight and vitamin D, which affects more women than men.

In the U.S. an estimated 4-6% of the population are seriously affected when the weather turns grey, cloudy and cold. The Cleveland Clinic estimates the figure could be as high as 20% of the population. The condition affects mostly women in their 20s, 30s and 40s but can affect men and adolescents too. Scientists are unsure why some people suffer from winter blues and others are unaffected by it. One theory is that some people have a biological disposition to it or that certain triggers need to be present. Symptoms of SAD include feeling down, losing interest in activities, insomnia and sinking into depression.

The first step to treating any condition is recognising it, so if these symptoms sound like you, here are 7 great ways to beat the winter blues before they seriously take hold.

1    Exercise

Daily exercise is known to be a natural way to counter feeling down. A good workout or hard exercise releases serotonin and endorphins which control our feelings of well-being. Enjoying outdoor exercise can also provide us with fresh air and new sights which are a natural spirit-booster.

2    Increase Your Veggie Intake

Five portions of fruit and vegetables are the very least you should be consuming for overall good health and vitality. A healthy diet high in green leafy veggies, nuts, fruits and natural unprocessed foods will reward you with a healthy, happy body whatever the season.

3    Check Your Fish Oil Levels

Omega-3 has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of SAD as it relieves the general symptoms of anxiety. Good sources of this essential oil are anchovies, salmon, mackerel, tuna and other oily fish along with good quality fish oil supplements. The recommended daily dosage is at least 1000mg, so check you are getting sufficient Omega-3 every day.

4    Top up on Raw Dairy Products

Include plenty of raw dairy products that are low in fat and high in natural organic goodness. Include milk, yoghurt, raw cheese, kefir and amasai for strong bones and a healthy immune system.

5    Sleep Well

Poor sleep quality and insomnia are classic signs of depression which can quickly become a downward spiral. Make sure you have a comfortable bed in a room that is the correct temperature. Concentrate on a healthy natural diet to avoid sleep problems which can be caused by caffeine, sugar and highly processed foods.

6    Be a Sunseeker

Those who suffer from winter blues often have low levels of vitamin D, known as “the sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D is produced naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight for 10-15 minutes several times a week.  If you live in an area with no opportunity for exposing your body to the sun’s rays, you may want to consider using a light box. Light therapy gives your body the benefits of sunshine even on cloudy winter days.

7    Supplement With Vitamin D

Although getting sufficient vitamin D naturally is always best, those living in northern climates, have darker skin or are over the age of 50 generally need to top up their dietary intake with a supplement, particularly in winter. Taken daily it helps support a healthy immune system to fight colds and flu among other benefits. It also plays a significant role in mood regulation, so adequate vitamin D is essential to banish those winter blues completely.

Additional Sources:
http://alternativemedicinenow.com/natural-treatments-for-seasonal-affective-disorder/
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195
http://www.livestrong.com/article/15184-natural-prevent-heal-winter-blues/
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/03/sad.seasonal.affective.disorder/index.html