Seasonal depression, which in more medical terms is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) , is depression that is triggered when the seasons change.
In the last few weeks of summer, I remember telling my partner that I am scared because it’s about to start getting cold and dark early. He didn’t seem to understand when I explained that I get depressed during fall and especially winter. I looked it up, curious as to why this happens every year, and I was fascinated to find out that there’s such a thing as seasonal depression.
For those of us who have been diagnosed with depression, we are more prone to experience severe depression during fall and winter. I usually get triggered from the end of daylight saving time. I had gotten so used to being depressed during this time that I did not think about doing anything about it besides just mentally preparing for it.
Today we are going to talk about seasonal affective disorder more. We will discuss the possible causes, symptoms and treatments. Some people experience sadness during this time and this is known as the winter blues; which is not to be confused with seasonal depression/seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder has a big impact on our daily lives – it controls how we feel and how we think and typically, they aren’t good and productive thoughts and feelings. The main cause or trigger for this is said to be the lack of sunlight during the day. When daylight savings end, we get longer nights and shorter days. For most, this means that you go to work while it’s still dark and come back home when it’s dark again. This alone minimizes your chances of getting enough sunlight.
- Lack of serotonin – serotonin is the main hormone that maintains our mood, happiness and also helps with sleeping. Spending time in the sun boosts levels of serotonin, however, with the sunlight limitations caused by the end of daylight saving time, we don’t get much of a chance to feed our serotonin and get natural vitamin D.
- Temperature change – the change of temperature and weather can affect our mood. During fall and winter, the temperature drops drastically, making it harder for some of us to get out of bed and go about with our regular daily schedule.
- Hypothyroidism – people who suffer from hypothyroidism are those who have a cold intolerance. When the thyroid gland, which controls growth and development, does not produce enough thyroid hormones, our body fails to maintain a healthy temperature and metabolism. Hypothyroidism causes fatigue, depression, constipation and your body feels cold when the temperature gets as low as 65℉.
- Mental state – how we think of cold seasons and dark, gloomy days also determine our behaviour towards those times. Most of us do not associate cold and dark days with fun, we tend to deviate towards going to sleep instead. During this time, most activities are done indoors due to the weather. For those of us who would much rather be outside, it becomes challenging to think outside the box and be open-minded about winter outdoor activities.
- Easily irritated
- Stressed and overthinking
- Feeling anxious
- Having a low self-esteem
- Avoiding socializing
- Constantly feeling low and tired
- Being negative
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Having no energy to be productive
- Finding it harder to get out of bed
5% of adults in the USA are affected by seasonal depression and 75% of them are women. People who experience seasonal depression are affected by it for almost half the year. Those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder can benefit from daily light therapy which can improve the mood of 60-80% of people with SAD. Alternatively, you reap the same benefits by spending time in the sun for 20 minutes a day. Here are some ways to ease seasonal depression…
1 | create fall and winter bucket list
Not only are bucket lists fun but they also give you something to look forward to which in turn, makes you excited about life. The dopamine hormone is released when we feel satisfaction from accomplishing something. With that said, making a list of all the things you want to do and actually doing them can make us happy. This also keeps us motivated knowing that something exciting is coming up.
Fall bucket list – 40 Fall Bucket List Ideas
Winter bucket list – Winter Bucket List: 60 Fun Activities & Things to Do When its Cold
2 | have a creative hobby
Being creative makes us feel free and connected to ourselves. Creativity reduces stress and anxiety and keeps us focused on doing something we love and enjoy. To ease depression, find a hobby that will be more of a project – one where you can track your progress over the days. This will give you more ideas everyday on how to approach the project and help you focus on the good.
Try hobbies such as: coloring complex patterns, putting together a doll-house and scrapbooking/art journaling.
3 | participate in decorating for the season
Work on your home and office decor to get in the spirit of upcoming events. Put up pumpkins – a fall wreath on your door, change your bedding to something orange and warm, start using the fall kitchen towels you have been keeping for this moment. Decorate for halloween too – get a costume and dress up for it. Prepare for thanksgiving – look up recipes to try out and bake something special. Soon after, start decorating for christmas, create a Christmas wishlist and share amongst your friends, start playing Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album.
4 | watch funny tv shows and fall/winter themed movies
One assured way to boost your serotonin levels is by getting a good laugh. Watch shows like The Last Man on Earth, What We Do In The Shadows and Family Guy. rewatch old tv shows for comfort like Girlfriends, My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris. Have a proper movie night set up and watch Home Alone, Are We There Yet? and The Grinch.
5 | have a self-care routine
Do whatever – and I mean whatever – you want to do that will make you feel good. Taking care of yourself feeds your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. If you would like to start a self-care challenge, I have put together a daily checklist for you which you can download here.
6 | keep in touch with close friends and family
Consistently reach out to those you care about and make you feel good. Play virtual and/or in-person games to keep you entertained and focused. Tell them about your day and your week and try to keep it positive and humorous. Make plans together and actually make an effort to follow through with them. Socializing with people you love and trust can ease anxiety and stress and overall make you feel good.
Struggling with seasonal depression does not have to be something that goes on forever. A simple change of mindset can have a great impact in diminishing seasonal depression. Put in the time and effort to get yourself out of the dark hole and don’t let yourself sink in.