Seasonal Affective Disorder- Supporting your Mental Health Through Winter

Nov 01, 2022

Do you find your mood darkening and your motivation to do anything dwindling as the days get shorter and darker? Do you find yourself more irritable, have increased difficulty concentrating, sleep more than normal, or have decreased activity levels? Maybe you become less social, you start to crave more carbohydrates and sugars, and you begin to overeat and gain weight. You’re not alone.

About 10% of the US population experience a major depressive episode during the fall or winter with relief of symptoms in the spring or summer months. A greater number of people experience a milder form of the seasonal affective disorder known commonly as the winter blues.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be due to a disruption in the circadian rhythm. The decreased light of the winter months affects your hypothalamus, specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This region is responsible for controlling your circadian rhythm.

Your circadian rhythm may also be affected by an overproduction of melatonin, which response to the light and dark changes that occur daily and throughout the seasons. The elevated levels of melatonin result in increased sleepiness and lethargy.

Those with SAD have difficulty regulating serotonin, specifically, they have lower serotonin activity. Serotonin affects your mood, emotions, sleep, and appetite.

The vagus nerve plays a role in the regulation of serotonin. It is associated with key areas of serotonergic innervation such as the nucleus tractus solitarius, locus coeruleus, and the dorsal raphe nucleus, all of which are located in the brainstem.

When you stimulate your vagus nerve, as with a chiropractic adjustment, you activate your brainstem. That allows for the proper functioning of all areas of your brainstem including the nucleus tractus solitarius for optimal serotonin regulation. The end result is you feel happier, your emotions and mood are more balanced, and you don’t feel so lethargic.

When you find yourself affected by the darkening days, whether it’s becoming less happy, or perhaps like myself, it becomes tougher to get out of bed in the mornings, schedule a boost adjustment. Stimulate your vagus nerve and increase your serotonin activity before your nervous system becomes stuck in a pattern. In the meantime, subscribe to our blog so you receive next week's post for tips on how to manage seasonal affective disorder.

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