The seasons often have a way of lifting or dampening the mood. For most people, its normal to feel a bit depressed and down when the cold winter kicks in. And when summer arrives and you can finally go out and enjoy the outdoors, your mood may also change to a happier more vibrant tone. Either way, seasons of weather, just like many things in our lives, can impact our mental health in a huge way.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The change in mood that you feel as a result of changes in the seasons is actually a recognized mental health condition. It is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It is basically a depressive disorder that is linked to seasonal changes. Typically, SAD is more prevalent in winter and in fall where the temperatures are cold and the days shorter. But there are some people who may experience SAD during summer of spring.
How Does A Change In Season Affect Mental Health?
There is in fact a biological explanation behind SAD. You see, during winter and fall, the supply of sunlight is significantly limited. Several studies have linked decreased exposure to the sun to depressed levels of serotonin in the body. As you know, serotonin is the most important hormone in stabilizing mood. The hormone is also responsible for triggering feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Without it, it’s easy to fall into moodiness and eventually depression.
But how does the sun trigger increased serotonin levels in the body? Well, this action starts in your eyes. When sunlight enters the cornea, it hits special areas of your retina. This then triggers the secretion of this happiness hormone. Considering that during winter the sun is often in short supply, it’s natural for your serotonin levels to drop.
Seasonal-Induced Insomnia and Its Effects on Mental Health
Changes in seasons will also have adverse effects on the levels of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is an essential hormone which is released at night by the pineal gland. It is designed to control the sleep-wake cycle. Interestingly enough, melatonin is synthesized from the availability of serotonin.
In essence, in order to have optimum levels of melatonin in your body, you will need to first of all synthesis enough serotonin.
And since your ability to produce the happiness hormone is significantly reduced during the cold winter and fall seasons, your body will also naturally fall short of producing adequate amounts of melatonin.
As a result, your sleep pattern starts to deviate and before you know it, you are dealing with insomnia. This will ultimately have adverse effects on your overall mental health.
Practical Tips to Ease SAD
As noted above, seasonal affective disorder is something so common so you shouldn’t be ashamed about it. Here are a few practical tips that you can use to deal with it:
1. Light Up Your Spaces
There is just something about a well lit room or space that always seem to brighten the mood. You can even buy specialized light therapy boxes designed to deal with several cases of SAD. The boxes are designed to mimic the natural light of the sun, something that can positively help improve serotonin production in your body.
2. Keep Yourself Busy
When your mind is fully focused on other things, then it’s easier to adapt to the changes in seasons better. You don’t even have to do too much. Going to the gym for example or even running in a home-based treadmill can do your body wonders.
3. Take a Vacation
Just because its winter in your country does not mean its winter everywhere else in the world. If you have the means, you can escape the harsh weather and it’s SAD by taking a vacation in a sunny paradise somewhere in the tropics.
4. Talk to Someone
If indeed you realize that your SAD is getting severe by the day, it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist. Mental health starts very small but it can progress fast. The last thing you want is to get deep into depression just because it’s cold outside. Winters can be pretty long and you will need an expert therapist to get you through this. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance.