It's that time of year...again. The summer months have finally past - yes I am including October. Last week it was 25 degrees here in London! [climate change for the win [Joke]]. The weather is and has started to change and for us in the UK that definitely means long dark days, hardly any sunshine and lots of grey clouds and rain. Lots of rain. 

I love the sun. I love warm weather and I dread cold UK winters. As much as I try to fight it, the change of seasons at the back end of the year always gets to me. Something happens. My mood changes. Like you, I'm only human. Sometimes I can control it, sometimes I can't and I am not the only one. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD] is a real thing, and it affects millions of people every year during the autumn and winter months.

SAD is a real, diagnosable mental health condition. The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but it is thought to be related to changes in melatonin levels, which is a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. The decrease in sunlight during the autumn and winter months can cause melatonin levels to rise, which can lead to symptoms of depression. The UK is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of SAD in the world. This is likely due to the fact that the we receive less sunlight during the autumn and winter months than other countries.

A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine found that up to 20% of adults in the UK experience SAD each year, with women more likely to experience this than men. The study also found that SAD was often under and misdiagnosed. This is because SAD can mimic the symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include:

Changes in appetite and sleep
Difficulty concentrating
Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating SAD but studies suggest healthy lifestyle choices and looking after The Endocannabinoid System [ECS] are effective ways to reduce symptoms.

Did you know?

A study in 2015 found that people with SAD have lower levels of endocannabinoids in their blood, and that increasing endocannabinoid levels may be helpful for treating SAD. This suggests that the ECS play a role in the development of SAD.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signalling system that plays a role in regulating a variety of bodily functions, including mood, sleep, and pain. The ECS is made up of three main components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors to produce a variety of effects. Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, including in the brain. Enzymes break down endocannabinoids after they have been used.

There are a number of ways to increase natural levels of endocannabinoids, including:

Exercise: Exercise is a great way to increase the production of endocannabinoids. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Diet: Eating a healthy diet can help to support the endocannabinoid system. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You may also want to consider adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, as they have been shown to increase endocannabinoid levels.

Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for the endocannabinoid system to function properly. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Stress management: Stress can disrupt the endocannabinoid system. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature.

Raw Cacao: The plant that chocolate is made from, contains compounds that are structurally very similar to endocannabinoids. These compounds can prevent the breakdown of your body's own cannabinoids, resulting in higher endocannabinoid levels overall.

Most importantly of all.. CBD aka Cannabidiol!

CBD [if you didn't know already!] is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system to regulate mood, sleep, and stress, as well as helping to increase serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation.

DID YOU KNOW? CBD can inhibit the breakdown of natural endocannabinoids, which can lead to higher levels of endocannabinoids in the body.

A 2015 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry found that CBD was effective in reducing symptoms of SAD, such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue whilst also improving the sleep quality in people with SAD. A 2018 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology backed this up and also found that CBD improved mood and cognitive function in people with SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real and treatable mental health condition. If you are struggling with SAD, please know that you are not alone and that there are a number of things you can do to help manage your symptoms.

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