Smorgasbord Health Column – UnSeasonal Affective Disorder – The Key elements of Activity and People by Sally Cronin

Normally I would refer to Seasonal Affective Disorder in February as the winter months take their toll on our physical, mental and emotional health. However, reading the various reports in the media on Vitamin D Deficiency being one of the causes for susceptibility to Covid-19 and raised concerns on the levels of mental health issues including depression, the comments from readers who are experiencing lack of energy and focus, I began to see some parallels to SAD, but six months ahead of schedule.

In the previous posts I covered some of the causes of SAD, how to get sufficient Vitamin D and Tryptophan and the foods to include on a daily basis to help reduce the likelihood of deficiency.

To help you make sure that you have a diet rich in nutrients to give your body the boost it needs here is a link to a comprehensive shopping list that you can cut and paste and print off: Nutrients the body need – Weekly shopping list

The aim is help prevent the symptoms associated with SAD.. you can find more Part Three

A quick recap – Despite the fact that for some of us access to the outside is restricted we need to make sure we are getting healthy amounts of Vitamin D from sunshine when possible, and the right foods to provide an alternative source. We also need to consume foods that help our bodies produce Tryptophan and B-vitamins to produce essential hormones in the brain – Melatonin and Serotonin.

We have to eat these foods regularly throughout the day.

  • Better to have 6 smaller meals of the right foods than starve all day and then have a big meal at night that cannot be digested and processed by the body.
  • This regularity will also drip feed the essential nutrients into your body, keeping energy levels higher and the neurotransmitters in your brain firing on all cylinders.
  • Avoid taking in high carbohydrate and sweet foods later at night. A cup of warm milk with a small teaspoon of honey before bed will help activate the melatonin to send you to sleep.
  • Sleep is essential and we all need around 8 hours per night to allow the body to recover and repair… and relax.

Despite not having access to the outside and our usual exercise routines and perhaps the lack of motivation, we still need to move the body.

Some of you living in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to enjoy the sunshine outside if you have a garden or safe exercise area, and dependent on restrictions in your area. But even if that is not possible, if you have YouTube there are plenty of online exercise classes for anything from Pilates, Yoga to Zumba. Here are some examples:

Pilates for Beginners: Jessica Valant Pilates

Jane Fonda Latin Dance Workout: Jane Fonda

Chair Zumba: Get fit with Daisy Saunders

Yoga for seniors or beginners: Yoga with Adreine

or you can join in with my favourite instructor…that would be Paco..

Exercising to music actually accomplishes a couple of very important functions as the combination of movement and music stimulates the production of dopamine and activates the reward centres in the brain. (This does not mean you immediately dive into the chocolate and mojitos as soon as you finish!!)

I put on my ipod with my playlists everyday when I am doing chores, preparing meals, doing the gardening and when I am sure no-one is looking I might do the occasional bop… I also am lucky to have a treadmill and this is great for stepping up the pace. Twenty minutes a day with some intervals of increased speeds for a couple of minutes is just about right for me. I feel mentally much more positive afterwards and it also helps keep the lockdown waistline from expanding.

If you do have a garden then nothing like some weeding, mowing the lawn or if there is some winter sunshine and you can exercise in safety in a local park or around the block you will get the additional benefit of some Vitamin D.

It is up to you to find the activities that make you feel good as an individual. All of them if enjoyed, will boost the immune system and release feel good endorphins that will help see you cope with the coming winter months..

We also need the interaction in any way we can manage with our clan… our family and close friends who offer us support, companionship and purpose.

If you are reading this then you and I are the lucky ones. If we are part of this blogging community, or on Facebook, Twitter or any other platform, there is someone awake 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A key strategy for overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder is interaction with others.

Our ancestors as part of a clan would have worked together, sitting by the fires which produced the only light, telling stories, educating the young, working on the first tools and utensils such as the autumn gourds. Even perhaps, making drums from those gourds and producing the first beats of music. I am sure that laughter was part of those dark days and nights as humour cannot just have developed in our modern world. The dynamics of the relationships within the clan can only be imagined because despite all the evidence found, we simply were not there!

The good news is that even if you are separated by thousands of miles or even a few hundred you can still keep in touch with your clan members and friends. The virtual cave we all live in now offers a wonderful opportunity to stay engaged with the world, learn new skills online, have conference calls via Skype or Zoom, catch up with gossip on Twitter or Facebook and communicate.

How do we help those who are not online.

There are those however who do not have access to the Internet and perhaps live alone with only two or three 15 minute carer visits a day. They are at the most risk from both nutritional deficiency being reliant on brought in meals or easy to prepare foods that come out of a tin. Their only company may be the television and for many on a low income there may be other issues such as keeping warm.

Clearly at the moment it is not possible for personal visits with many of those in this situation but they will have a telephone. Perhaps they like to read and need some books, or a phone call once or twice a week to chat. Some shopping done, or would welcome a homemade dinnner. You may already know people in your street or neighbourhood who are in this situation but their are local organisations such as Age UK who welcome volunteers to match up with their vulnerable clients for friendship calls.

The benefit of this is not for just for the person isolated but for the person reaching out.

So that is the last post in the Unseasonal Affective Disorder series and I hope you have found helpful.

However, you cannot just sit passively and wait for all these elements to come together magically. You have to grab with both hands and participate and I hope that the components that I have shared will help you do that.

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on