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Are You Depressed Without Your Garden? Make a New Year’s Resolution To Increase Serotonin

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Dear Casual Gardener,

I hate this time of year! It’s below zero, cold, and dark. I miss my gardening schedule, my daily walks, and certainly miss my time outdoors in nature. I sometimes get depressed and find that I can’t keep up with the pace anymore. Is this because of the cold weather?


Depressed And In The Dark

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Dear Depressed,

You are not alone. I definitely miss the warm weather and my spring mailbox garden (seen in the photo). When the thermometer hits negative thirty, there are not a whole lot of activities you can enjoy outside. The reason you might be depressed is that your body is not producing the same level of serotonin that it does in the Spring and Summer.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months. Milder forms of SAD are known as the “winter blues” and can be quite common during the colder winter months when there is less daylight exposure for the average human.

An estimated 10% to 20% of Americans may experience some form of SAD or winter blues. SAD is more prevalent in the higher latitudes than in the lower latitudes that receive more sun. Some people who work in offices with little access to natural light may experience SAD all year. In doing further research, I have found that people who are very over-loaded and stressed in their lives also have SAD-like symptoms year-round.

A strong theory right now contends that people with SAD have an imbalance in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical found in your brain that is believed to play an important role as a neurotransmitter. It helps regulate emotions and mood, aggression, body temperature, sleep, vomiting, sexuality, and appetite, among other things. More important, it helps you feel like a million bucks on a beautiful spring day in the garden. During the cold, winter months, our brain receives lower serotonin levels in its chemical messaging process due to the lack of daylight. This makes depression more prevalent and it also slows our ability to cope with daily stressors.

Increasing serotonin levels, whether you have a significant lack of serotonin or not, is a great way to help improve your mood. It is felt that we feel a rush of positive energy due to increased serotonin levels. Dr. David Edelberg, M.D., confirms this in his book, The Triple Whammy Cure. The book, although applicable to most everyone, focuses on women’s health. Dr. Edelberg states that serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain which provides strong resistance against stress. The more serotonin you have, the better you are able to tolerate all types of stress. He also says that women have less serotonin than men do, which makes them more susceptible to stress, SAD depression in general.

Daylight exposure is the number one drug-free way our bodies create additional serotonin according to Dr. Edelberg. He also suggests that exercise, diet, and laughter can stimulate increased levels of serotonin. Let me remind you – laughter is free. Dr. Edelberg also says people who volunteer to help others in their community regularly have much higher levels of serotonin. Helping others actually increases your feel-good brain chemicals; and, therefore, helps you. Random acts of kindness can be most rewarding – your brain feeds you a gift in return for the kindness. The phrase, “you get as good as you give,” takes on a whole new meaning when you consider Dr. Edelberg’s statement.

Remember to think positive. If you cannot get outside, perhaps you can order plant catalogs and start planning your garden for the Spring? Now is the perfect time to look at the interior of your home and find ways to be more environmentally friendly and “green”. Have friends and family come and help you establish an eco-plan for your home – it will cheer you up to share time with others. Join the community park district health club for a few months and go exercise with your friends regularly.

Also, a lot of people try to diet during January and February to lose those unwanted holiday pounds. It has been proven that diets don’t work very well and some diets deprive our bodies of needed nutrients. Concentrate on eating several smaller, healthier, meals instead of eating less overall. Your brain needs the energy to produce those helpful neurotransmitters.

Improve your mood by increasing serotonin levels! A great New Years Resolution: institute a plan to practice a healthier lifestyle and increase serotonin.

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

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  1. This is a truly a wonderful thing to post so fellow gardeners know they are not alone. One of my New Years Resolutions is to spread the GREEN this winter from my blog. Even though my neck of the woods maybe in the ugliest of winter cold I can share the green from my 80* greenhouse with images and v-blogging.

    THank you Shawna for inspiring me along this fabulous journey.

  2. You're so right about making sure to laugh every day. All of my family and friends are in town and I love to laugh with them all day long. Keeps me positive. Thanks and Happy New Year!

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