Do you find yourself feeling down and depressed around this time of year? It may be because there is less sunlight during the colder months. It is known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), and it is actually fairly common. However, that doesn’t mean you should just brush it off, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do about it!
How does less sunlight affect a person’s mood?
If you are big on the outdoors, you may feel down during the winter months because it gets dark so early and you have less time to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities. But you may also be depressed because the reduced levels of sunlight can mess with your internal clock. Less sunlight can also cause your serotonin (a chemical in the brain that affects mood) levels to drop. And, the change in seasons can also disrupt your body’s melatonin (which helps to regulate sleep patterns and mood).
Anyone can come down with SAD, but people with bipolar disorder, younger adults, and women seem to be more at risk.
What can you do about SAD?
Seeing your doctor for a physical can help to determine if you have SAD or another problem. If you think you might have SAD, some things that can help include:
• Keeping your home as light as possible. Trim trees or anything that may block sunlight from getting into the windows, and open all of your blinds. You might also want to get a light box, which mimics the natural light of the outdoors, for phototherapy. This can help change the chemicals in the brain – it is also very inexpensive and has very little risk of any side effects.
• Taking medication. Your doctor may advise you to start on an antidepressant. However, it can take weeks for antidepressants to really start working.
• Getting lots of outdoor exercise. Even on a cloudy day, you’ll be getting some benefits of outdoor light, and exercise itself can help to lift your mood.
Whatever time of year it is and whatever is causing your depression, the staff at Wasatch Crest in Heber, Utah, wants to help. Call (800) 385-3507 today.