Anyone who lives in a climate with long, dark, and cold winters, is likely to understand Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on some level. Waking up on a gray rainy morning can make it hard to have the energy to get up at all! One thing that can really help on darker days is food.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is felt more strongly in the winter months. Besides people generally preferring sunny weather, scientists have struggled to explain why people suffer from SAD. Some believe that the change in seasons reduces production of hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin, all of which affect our mood. Others believe that the changing daylight hours interrupts our circadian rhythm, which keeps our natural bodyclock in check.
According to the American Academy of Physicians, around 4-6 percent of Americans suffer from SAD, and this is likely to be higher the further north you live. Its symptoms vary from person to person and can be more severe in some than in others but SAD can make it hard to get out of bed, to find motivation for hobbies or socializing, and even affect our work. Some small lifestyle interventions can help alleviate these symptoms, one of which is our diet.
It is worth mentioning that if you think you are suffering from depression, please seek professional medical advice. Whilst SAD is important to recognize and can be alleviated, depression is a mental health issue that needs addressing properly, whatever the time of year.
How Can Your Diet Help Tackle SAD?
There are many ways we can tackle SAD in our own lives. We will talk about food in a moment but here are two other tried-and-tested suggestions for tackling the symptoms of SAD.
- Get a SAD light, if your room is dark in the winter months. Many people report significant benefits from it.
- A blast of cold water at the end of your shower (we know, it sounds awful), can actually stimulate your body’s nervous system and reduce the effects of the cold once you get out. Cold water immersion is great for mental health all year round, too.
Five Recipes That Will Brighten Up Dark Winter Days
Food is a special part of life, and the right foods can brighten up the darkest of winter days. We often associate winter with hearty, warm dishes and whilst there is nothing wrong with this, sometimes a dash of color, spice, and variety can change our perception of cold, gray, or wet weather. The dishes we’ve listed here can emphasize the positive parts of what we already have by transporting us to locations around the world with diverse and colorful flavors,
Here are our top five picks for recipes to brighten up your winter.
1. Rainbow Jambalaya
This colorful Jambalaya hails from Louisiana and shows off bright and zesty flavors, as well as enriching nutrient dense ingredients to give you lasting energy. This is an accessible recipe that needs just a microwave.
2. Mushroom Tamales with Tomatillo Sauce
Written by our very own resident Mexican chef Jess, this traditional recipe is a firm GenV favorite and if you have never tried tomatillos before, you will be amazed at how tangy, sweet, and zesty they are. This sauce is not one to hold back on, and a healthy dose of it will transport you straight to the palm-lined shores of the Yucatan.
3. Aloha Black Bean and Pineapple Burgers
If you’re missing summer BBQ’s on the beach, this Hawaiian-inspired burger brings the beach to your living room and is sure to brighten up any dark winter weekend.
4. Baked Buffalo Wings
Sometimes a bit of spice is all we need to get us going, and in our book, there are few better ways to get it than in a good buffalo sauce. Research shows that spicy food can trigger an endorphin release, creating a euphoria similar to that of exercise. Careful though, too spicy and we can risk doing damage to our mouth or throat, so take it easy!
5. Vegan Seafood Pasta
This tangy seafood-style pasta can transport us straight to the beach, whether it’s the Amalfi coast of Italy or Venice Beach. Nori seaweed sheets and tangy capers give this dish all the seafood tang it needs, without any of the animals!
Seasonal Affective Disorder can make it hard for us to find the energy we need to do the things we enjoy in the winter months, but small lifestyle interventions can help shift our mindset to a more positive outlook. Exploring dishes from exotic cultures can also help us broaden our dietary horizons, giving us more options to turn to when we need something to brighten up our day.
The five dishes we’ve listed here are just a few of many amazing, diverse recipes you can find on our website. Try something new today!