Experts at the National Institutes of Health believe depression is likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors that together may trigger a range of symptoms from sadness, fatigue and loss of appetite to headaches, digestive problems and difficulty concentrating.
For many people, the change in seasons can bring on depressive symptoms—especially in fall and winter when colder temperatures and shorter days (meaning less light) leave them feeling gloomy and drained of energy. But while we’re often tempted to stay indoors and hibernate during these months, a new study from the University of Michigan says we should do just the opposite.
Results of the study, published in the journal Ecopsychology, reveal that depression may be greatly reduced simply by taking a walk in nature. They recruited nearly 2,000 participants and found that those who engaged in weekly group nature walks showed fewer signs of depression and stress and instead enjoyed enhanced mental health and improved overall well-being—even if they had recently experience a traumatic life event such as a illness, unemployment or the death of a loved one.
Studies tell us seasonal changes affect women more often than men, and women are also 70% more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. In addition to walking outdoors, a healthy diet also supports mental health. Because a diet high in inflammatory foods such as sugars, refined and starchy carbohydrates, processed meats and trans fats has been linked to a 41% higher risk of depression in women according to Harvard researchers, fill your plate instead with anti-inflammatory foods such as low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats and plenty of protein.