How does the season effect our mood?
It’s that time of year again; the leaves turn into beautiful yellows, oranges and browns and we snuggle up with hot drinks at home. We get to swear cosy sweaters and get into the festive spirit of the upcoming holidays. What’s not to love?!
Personally, it’s my favourite season but it’s also a time where we tend to crawl back indoors to get away from the cold and wet conditions that come with the autumn and winter. The days start getting much shorter and daylight hours are hard to come by.
Unfortunately, this loss of light in winter means many people aren’t getting enough vitamin D. As we spoke about in the beginning of summer, sunshine converts vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D plays a huge role in synthesizing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for our mood (aka the ‘happiness hormone’). So, as you can guess – it’s pretty important!
What is seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD) is one possible result of problems synthesizing serotonin. It’s a type of Major Depressive Disorder, when people experience significant depressive symptoms in a seasonal pattern, when otherwise experiencing ‘normal’ mental health throughout the rest of the year.
It’s most common in winter, where the symptoms look more like sleeping too much, feeling lethargic and having no energy, eating more and having feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. SAD can also happen in the spring time and also in summer, but there are usually differences in the symptoms, which include restlessness, insomnia, anxiety and decreased appetite.
Other theories for SAD are that most species reduce their activity in winter in general (think hibernation as an extreme example). The idea is that for most of human history it’s been adaptive to ‘slow down’ in winter, when food is scarcer to reduce the need for calorie intake. Most theories, however, point to light as the main cause.
So what can we do? Well, at least for this coming season make sure to get outside! We need as much natural light as possible, to make sure we’re making that precious serotonin.
Vitamin D tablets, light therapy and exercise are other good treatments that help combat symptoms of SAD.
However, if you feel these symptoms start interfering with your daily life, please consider reaching out to a health professional.