Once the cold weather sets in and the days get shorter, it’s not uncommon for your mood to reflect the bleak winter season. For some people, however, the winter blues can develop into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that follows the seasons.
It is estimated that as much as 20 percent of the population struggles with SAD, or some type of seasonal depression. If diagnosed, you can struggle with this condition year-round, but senior depression typically peaks in January and February and fades away at the beginning of spring.
How To Know If You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder
While seasonal affective disorder affects everyone differently, some of the most common wintertime symptoms include:
- Extreme and endless fatigue
- Decreased energy levels
- Cravings for sweet and starchy foods
- Weight gain
- Avoiding social situations
Should you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor about treatments for senior depression. While light therapy, medications and journaling are some of the best ways to treat this condition according to Nestmaven.com, including mood-boosting foods in your diet can also play a key role in combating seasonal affective disorder.
Top Mood-Boosting Foods
When it comes to treating your symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, a good place to start is looking at the foods you’re eating. Many of us turn to sweet and sugary comfort foods this time of year, but these kinds of treats will only worsen your condition and be unkind to your waistline.
Luckily, there are plenty of mood-boosting foods that will not only help prevent and combat seasonal affective disorder, but will also promote your overall health:
Vitamin D-Rich Foods
In addition to being a serious health threat, vitamin D deficiency is also a leading cause of wintertime senior depression. Being in direct sunlight for 30 minutes, twice a week, allows your body to naturally produce enough vitamin D, but since getting this amount of sun exposure can be difficult during winter, you need to find other ways to reach the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.
The simplest way is by eating vitamin D-fortified foods, including breakfast cereals, yogurt, cheese, milk and juices. Since not all brands are vitamin D-fortified, however, you must read the labels carefully.
Certain types of fish, like salmon, tuna and sardines, are also rich in vitamin D, but the best part is that you can get really creative when adding these mood-boosting foods to your diet. Whether you try moroccan grilled salmon or a ham and cheese breakfast casserole, you’ll never get bored with these vitamin D-rich recipes from Eating Well.
In addition to these mood-boosting foods, you should also talk to your doctor about taking a daily Vitamin D supplement to ensure you are getting the recommended amount.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Similar to vitamin D deficiency, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet has also been linked to seasonal affective disorder. That’s because omega-3 fatty acids help the brain maintain healthy levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for creating feelings of love, joy and pleasure along with regulating your mood, irritability and memory.
Oily, fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies are effective in combating senior depression, but you can also consume omega-3 fatty acids through canola oil, walnut oil, hemp and flaxseed.
Unlike most other types of fats, our bodies cannot naturally produce omega-3, making it essential that you eat the recommended amount. After talking with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the daily dose that’s right for you, use these healthy omega-3 recipes from Eating Well to add this essential fat to your breakfast, lunch and dinner lineup.
If you’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder, you may notice that you frequently crave sweets that are unhealthy sources of carbohydrates, like soda, candy and doughnuts. Not only will excess snacking lead to weight gain, but it will also worsen your symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Completely removing carbohydrates from your diet isn’t the answer, however, since carbohydrates actually promote the production of serotonin in the brain.
The key in fighting off senior depression without risking weight gain is eating healthier sources of carbohydrates, like popcorn, pretzels, low-fat biscotti and shredded wheat squares. Just be sure to pay attention to the serving size when snacking on these healthier treats.
It’s also recommended that you eat the most carbohydrates at dinner, like brown rice, potatoes and lentils. Since nighttime is typically the time when the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are at their strongest, this will help fend off your cravings for a sweet or sugary snack.
24/7 Access to a Helping Hand
Even after adding these mood-boosting foods to your diet, this time of year can still be very difficult for seniors. The good news, however, is that if you ever need a helping hand or someone to lend an ear, you can use Medical Guardian’s non-emergency services that come standard with all of our medical alert devices. Day or night, our round-the-clock operators will connect you to the person you need the most, even if it’s someone to help cheer you up.