The winter season can be welcomed as a time to enjoy cozy nights on the couch with your loved ones and your favorite Netflix shows. But after months on end cooped up inside with a dwindling queue of episodes to watch, winter can quickly become depressing. You are not alone in this feeling. About 20 to 35 percent of people suffer from mild to severe forms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. And an increase in depression cases is something I definitely see this time of year at my functional medicine center.
So what's the science behind this? When we take a look at our brain, we see that one of the biggest culprits behind these winter blues is a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is in charge of keeping you happy, and during the winter months, serotonin transporter (SERT) levels rise by up to 5 percent, which translates to less serotonin in the brain. This depletion of your feel-good neurotransmitter leaves you feeling depressed and lethargic.
Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to naturally up serotonin production and balance your hormones. So without further ado, read on for your guide to SAD!