Why Does Seasonal Depression Occur and What Can You Do About It?
Just as unique as we are in other aspects of life, we are also unique in terms of how the changing seasons affect us. Some of us experience low moods every winter. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself. In the wintertime, you may feel sad more often, or maybe you lose interest in activities you enjoy. You might even notice your energy levels dropping.
Maybe you’ve wondered if it’s all in your head, or if you’re just reacting to holiday stress. However, seasonal depression is a real and relatively common phenomenon for people living in cooler climates. Seasonal depression is also known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
If you experience SAD, then your mental health may generally be stable throughout most of the year, then the winter months can send you into a funk. Seasonal depression can be influenced by a number of factors. If you want to boost your mood this winter, it’s important to understand what causes this condition and how you can support your wellbeing.
Here are a few reasons why people experience seasonal depression, as well as some helpful tips on protecting your mental health throughout the winter.
If the winters in your location are colder than average, then you probably spend a lot more time indoors. Furthermore, your window of time for spending time outdoors before and after work can be very limited by the shorter daylight hours.
You might spend most of your day working, only to catch an hour of sunlight after your workday ends. Because of this, you’re likely not getting as much outdoor physical activity. In addition, snacking on sugary holiday treats and drinking more alcohol during holiday events can negatively affect your mood.
Throughout the winter, people living far away from the equator absorb very little vitamin D from sunlight. If you’re not getting plenty of vitamin D through your diet or supplementation, this can have a drastic impact on your mood.
This is because adequate vitamin D intake actually regulates the production of certain neurotransmitters, and can boost your mood, therefore potentially protecting against mental health conditions like depression.
Getting More Vitamin D
If you’re dealing with seasonal depression, supplementing with vitamin D is one of the most helpful things you can do. You could also take a multivitamin that includes vitamin D. You could also use a lamp known as a SAD lamp to get more light exposure indoors, which can boost your vitamin D levels.
It doesn’t hurt to incorporate more foods that provide vitamin D into your diet, either! This includes foods like eggs and fatty fish. When you’re at the grocery store, you can also look for foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, like dairy milk, plant-based milk, and many varieties of cereal. As you’re making adjustments to your diet, you can also reduce certain foods that can have a negative effect on your mood, like sugary snacks.
Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally make you feel happier and can help counteract the effects of seasonal depression. Even though you may not be able to get as much vitamin D from the sun during the winter, spending time outdoors can still contribute to a cumulative mood-boosting effect. Look for opportunities to get outside in any way, shape, or form!
Simply taking a walk around your neighborhood to get some fresh air can make you feel a bit better!
What if implementing these lifestyle changes isn’t enough? You do not have to continue dealing with seasonal depression by yourself. It might be time to reach out to a therapist. Even if you don’t think that you’ll need to see a therapist long-term, talking to a counselor once or twice a month throughout the winter can help you learn coping skills to deal with low moods.
Are you struggling with seasonal depression? Talking to a therapist can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.