Seasonal Affective Disorder... Why Do We Only Talk About This In November? - Drew Ramsey MD

The polar vortex reminded us that Winter is not quite gone. And while Spring is around the corner, for many people, the grip of seasonal depression has really taken hold.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs as a depressive episode as the seasons change, and tends to lift as Spring approaches. While we’re close to this, I wanted to make sure you had some of our tips if your mood is struggling.

SAD may include the following symptoms:

  • Feeling of sadness or depressed mood
  • Marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
  • Increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide

If you’re struggling with depression, please reach out to a clinician. Here are a few additional things that I find helpful for my patients struggling with their mood in the winter.

1. Get outside

This is a two-pronged issue for most: gear and fear. “Gear” helps us feed our souls, while nature helps transcend any holiday materialistic guilt. Deep in the forest with your snowshoes, you’ll be toasty with a base layer of silk and and a windproof shell. Don’t sweat too many nerdy gear details—my middle layer is currently a Uniqlo jacket from the vending machine at LaGuardia. “Fear” usually stems from inexperience. Winter hiking, skiing hut-to-hut, carving big mountain turns in the fresh powder, and winter sports are super accessible. Grab some gear. Grab a guide or a lesson and go.

2. Check in with your doctor

Get your vitamin D level checked. If you life in the Northeast, it’s probably low in the winter. Having low levels of vitamin D has been shown to increase the risk of depression for people with a prior clinical diagnosis of depression. Hypothyroid, hypoglycemia, and other health conditions can have similar symptoms as SAD.

3. Take a lesson from nature

It’s dark out, so sleep more. Drink more hot soups, broths, and tea. Winter is a time of rest and reflection, a season of long reads by the fire. We tend to operate in a go, go, go flow, but sometimes our minds and bodies need a break. Our farm has been bedded for the year, and without guilt or pretense, you should too.

4. Beware the beige diet

My body responds to the cold by gaining five to 10 pounds entirely from Lazy Green Mac-n-Cheese (kale, quinoa noodles, cheddar). Lower moods often means carb-craving. What does your winter rainbow look like? Orange squash, purple yams, and crispy Brussels sprouts are some of my favorites. These colors represent different phytonutrients that influence our cells and DNA in health-promoting ways. Get more seafood, too. Long-chained omega-3s—the kinds that are concentrated in wild salmon, anchovies, and mussels—modestly boost mood in trials for clinical depression.

5. Give a light box a try

Before medications or supplements, I tend to recommend a light box for winter depression. Light therapy needs to be bright (around 10,000 lux), close to you, and requires 20–30 minutes in the the morning. Dawn simulators can be helpful if you are dragging out of bed. Make sure to dim your lights and screens after sundown.

6. Get some help

Seasonal depressions come in many stripes. You don’t need to be clinically depressed or hitting rock bottom to merit some assistance getting back on track. Expert advice could come from a therapist, health coach, psychiatrist, psychologist, teacher or religious leader. Just ask. If you’d like to work with us or need a referral, shoot us an email. Learn more about seasonal affective disorder from the American Psychiatric Association

Eat Complete

Winner of a 2017 IACP Cookbook Award  •  Finalist for a Books for a Better Life Award

Named one of the top health and wellness books for 2016 by Well + Good and MindBodyGreen


From leading psychiatrist and author of Fifty Shades of Kale comes a collection of 100 simple, delicious, and affordable recipes to help you get the core nutrients your brain and body need to stay happy and healthy.

What does food have to do with brain health? Everything.

Your brain burns more of the food you eat than any other organ. It determines if you gain or lose weight, if you’re feeling energetic or fatigued, if you’re upbeat or depressed. In this essential guide and cookbook, Drew Ramsey, MD, explores the role the human brain plays in every part of your life, including mood, health, focus, memory, and appetite, and reveals what foods you need to eat to keep your brain—and by extension your body—properly fueled.

Drawing upon cutting-edge scientific research, Dr. Ramsey identifies the twenty-one nutrients most important to brain health and overall well-being—the very nutrients that are often lacking in most people’s diets. Without these nutrients, he emphasizes, our brains and bodies don’t run the way they should.

Eat Complete includes 100 appetizing, easy, gluten-free recipes engineered for optimal nourishment. It also teaches readers how to use food to correct the nutrient deficiencies causing brain drain and poor health for millions. For example:

• Start the day with an Orange Pecan Waffle or a Turmeric Raspberry Almond Smoothie, and the Vitamin E found in the nuts will work to protect vulnerable brain fat (plus the fiber keeps you satisfied until lunch).

• Enjoy Garlic Butter Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles and Mussels with Garlicky Kale Ribbons and Artichokes, and the zinc and magnesium from the seafood will help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

• Want to slow down your brain’s aging process? Indulge with a cup of Turmeric Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the flavanols found in chocolate both increase blood flow to the brain and help fight age-related memory decline.

Featuring fifty stunning, full-color photographs, Eat Complete helps you pinpoint the nutrients missing from your diet and gives you tasty recipes to transform your health—and ultimately your life.


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The Happiness Diet

For the first time in history, too much food is making us sick. It's all too apparent that the Modern American Diet (MAD) is expanding our waistlines; what's less obvious is that it's starving and shrinking our brains. Rates of obesity and depression have recently doubled, and while these epidemics are closely linked, few experts are connecting the dots for the average American.

Using the latest data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Dietshows that over the past several generations small, seemingly insignificant changes to our diet have stripped it of nutrients--like magnesium, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D, as well as some very special fats--that are essential for happy, well-balanced brains. These shifts also explain the overabundance of mood-destroying foods in the average American's diet and why they predispose most of us to excessive weight gain.

After a clear explanation of how we've all been led so far astray, The Happiness Diet empowers the reader with simple, straightforward solutions. Graham and Ramsey show you how to steer clear of this MAD way of life with foods to swear off, shopping tips, brain-building recipes, and other practical advice, and then remake your diet by doubling down on feel-good foods--even the all-American burger.


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Fifty Shades of Kale

Kale gets sexy in Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey, M.D., and Jennifer Iserloh, with 50 recipes that are mouth-wateringly delicious and do a body good.
Release yourself from the bondage of guilt and start cooking meals with the ingredients you love: meat, cheese, and yes—even butter. Nutrient-rich kale provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy, and lean—so you can indulge in your most delicious desires. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a real kale submissive, you will undoubtedly succumb to Kale’s charms.

From Mushroom and Kale Risotto to Kale Kiwi Gazpacho, Fifty Shade of Kale offers simple ways to have your kale and eat it, too, as well as nutritional information, cooking tips, and a tutorial on kale in all her glorious shades.
Indulge your culinary passions with Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh and Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please.


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