For many people, the first few months of the year are filled with optimism. Resolutions are still – as yet – unbroken, and the glow of a bustling festive period hasn’t quite dissipated. But not everyone finds the winter months agreeable.
For some, the colder season can inspire feelings of sadness, lethargy, and low mood in general. If an underlying condition such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the cause, getting appropriate treatment could have a transformative effect on mood levels.
Additionally, supplementation may offer some relief for winter blues. Functional mushrooms have an assortment of potential benefits according to multiple studies, and we believe they might be able to increase positivity during the darker months when paired with certain lifestyle changes.
But before we get into that, we want to discuss what could be causing a lack of positivity in the first place…
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, and what causes it?
SAD is a form of depression that occurs during the transition into the colder, darker months of the year. While the exact cause of SAD is not known, it’s speculated that the reduction of exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of winter, and the various functions of the body it affects, is to blame.
As explained on the official NHS page for SAD, there are multiple possible issues a lack of sunlight can create, thereby causing SAD:
Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces naturally in response to darkness. Its primary function is to let the body know it's night time so it can start preparing for rest. A change in sunlight levels is thought to affect production of melatonin, negatively impacting sleep.
Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter and hormone produced naturally by the body. It’s created in neurons located in the middle of the brainstem, though it’s generally found in the gut. Inadequate sunlight levels may lower serotonin, which could in turn result in SAD.
Until recently, humans structured their daily endeavours around sunlight. Though we’ve developed technologies to help us flout our diurnal nature, we are still biologically still tuned to that rhythm. Lower light levels in winter may affect our internal clock, and lead to SAD.
Symptoms of SAD
- Persistent low mood
- Difficulty focusing
- Finding it difficult to get out of bed
- Sleeping longer than normal
If you think you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s important to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional. There are various treatment options, including light therapy and counselling.
Once you’ve received adequate medical advice – or if you discover you don’t have SAD, and instead find yourself battling a more general wintertime malaise – you can look to other options to boost your mindset.
We think one of the best ways to do that is to attempt to reduce the presence of the great mood-destabiliser: stress.
What can I do to combat stress naturally?
While it can be exceedingly hard to get out and stay active when it’s cold, activity in nature might be one of the best things you can do to increase your mood. A 2019 study found that at least 120 minutes a week spent in nature was associated with an increase in wellbeing.
If you can combine that with 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, you could also reap health benefits such as a reduction in anxiety, depression, and negative mood.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to stress reduction – it’s important to find what works for you. The above is backed by science, and each one is a fantastic foundation to help combat stress and boost mood.
Once you’ve dialled in your lifestyle changes, you’re ready to start thinking about supplementation. And within that world, there aren’t many more exciting subjects than the concept of adaptogens…
What's an adaptogen, and how can they help promote positivity?
Adaptogens are plants that may help the body naturally regulate stress levels. They’ve been used for millennia in various traditional medicines, and a number of modern preliminary studies have taken place to assess their potential.
Many of these studies have noted the neuroprotective, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anti-fatigue effects of adaptogens on a cellular level. A 2010 paper on the subject of adaptogens discussed a clinical study that found a significant reduction in stress-induced symptoms after four weeks of continuous consumption.
An adaptogen that has been receiving its fair share of time in the spotlight is ganoderma lucidum, or Reishi. This immunomodulatory wonder-shroom has a solid amount of research behind its claims as a nutritional, medicinal powerhouse.
Reishi mushroom, adaptogenic extraordinaire
Reishi is commonly thought of as a mushroom with significant adaptogenic capabilities. In one 2018 study, Reishi was shown to reduce various forms of stress in rodents. A 2021 review noted its pharmacological potential to reduce depression.
Other potential health benefits
- Possible anti-cancer applications
It’s also been speculated that ganoderma lucidum may support the function of adrenal glands, which are responsible for secreting hormones like cortisol to help the body fight stress.
How often do I need to take Reishi mushroom capsules?
Each bottle contains 90 capsules, and each capsule contains 450mg or Reishi mushroom extract. For best results, the recommended dosage schedule is 3 tablets, 1-3 times a day.
A lack of positivity in the colder seasons is extremely common, and it’s important to understand that better times will come. It’s also important to ensure that your low mood isn’t the result of an actual condition such as SAD.
Once you’ve sought appropriate medical advice where necessary, and have made sure your lifestyle is conducive to a positive mindset, supplementation of Reishi could further contribute to a mood boost during dark winter months*.
For more on Reishi, click the link.
*Please note, Mycology Nutrition cannot guarantee the positive effects of its products. Results may vary. Our products are not designed to treat medical conditions or diseases.