Beat the Winter Blues with Essential Oils

Discover how aromatherapy can be used to keep seasonal affective disorder at bay through scents that improve mental focus, invigorate our senses, and boost our moods.

| January/February 2019

  • Thanks to aromatherapy, we now appreciate the profound link between aroma and health.
    Photo by Getty Images/amesy
  • Disperse essential oils into the air from diffusers, which can run for several hours and be placed throughout your home.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/New Africa
  • Although it’s a member of the mint family, melissa is known for its lemon-scented leaves.
    Photo by Getty Images/Madeleine_Steinbach
  • With the right treatment, a change in the seasons will no longer change your health and happiness.
    Photo by Getty Images/AleksandarNakic

After living in sunny Rome for 12 years, my move to Pennsylvania in 1996 brought an unexpected adversary — the winter blues, formally known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The first winter after my return to the United States, I noticed an unusual desire for daily naps and an overall sense of melancholy. I attributed these symptoms to the adjustment of moving to a new country. However, when my mood magically lifted the following summer, only to drop again in winter, I knew I was experiencing SAD.

SAD is a condition of mild to major depression with a seasonal pattern. Most people begin to notice feelings of sadness and reduced energy around October or November, and find they become worse in December, January, and February, when the days are shortest.

What Causes SAD?

The primary factors that may influence this disorder are:

Low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy. Reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, affecting the balance of your mood.



Elevated levels of melatonin. This hormone primarily affects sleep patterns, and a change in the season can disrupt the balance of melatonin in your body, causing you to produce too much. The result is depressed feelings and lethargy.

Your internal clock. Your internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm, alerts you to whether you should be awake or asleep. The decreased sunlight in winter disrupts your normal rhythm and can bring about symptoms of SAD.



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