I know that some people think that the idea of seasonal depression is just plain crazy. However, there are some very real cases that lead us to believe that the weather can have a tremendous affect on a person's mood.
The thinking used to be that a change in the weather can't really make a person depressed or that anyone who feels this way just needs to get a grip on their emotions and snap out of it. After all, in any given area we all deal with the same weather as our neighbors, so how can some actually suffer from seasonal depression when others are unaffected even through the coldest darkest of winters? There are a few reasons why some people may get this disorder when others remain un affected, and fortunately, there are some things that any person suffering with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can do to deal with it.
What Causes Seasonal Depression?
Humans are living breathing creatures and react to sunlight just as much as plants and animals do; we may not exactly wither in the shade, but we still need sunlight. For instance, someone that isn't exposed to natural light on a regular basis can suffer from rickets and other diseases. So to say that a lack of natural light having an affect on your mood is all in the head just doesn't hold up under scientific scrutiny.
If lack of sunlight affects you physically of course it can affect you emotionally. I would go so far as to say that because it affects you emotionally that it will eventually affect you physically. A lack of sunlight during wintertime can cause seasonal depression in those that are more sensitive to this condition. With our culture of early commutes in the dark to work and then into artificially lit cubical during the day only to leave the office or plant at 5 o'clock with less than an hour of daylight left, it's easy to see how little light many of us get in the winter.
It's also true that some people just don't like outdoor sports or exercise during the winter such as skiing or snowboarding or even running and walking, so they are getting much less natural light than those that exercise on a regular basis. Others simply may be more sensitive to the cold, such as people with poor circulation. This of course leads to them wanting to stay indoors more often, contributing to their seasonal depression.
Cabin fever can also contribute to seasonal depression. When you are locked up in the house all the time because roads are covered in snow and ice, it's easy to feel frustrated, irritated, bored, and trapped. These can easily lead to cases of seasonal affective disorder and, if left untreated, into clinical depression.
Treating Seasonal Depression
We can't magically wish winter away nor would most people want too. Most can't take off for several months at a time to go sit on a beach soak in the natural light and make ourselves feel better. But there are some things that you can do when winter blows in to treat seasonal depression.
First, getting outside as much as possible is important. Even if all you do is go outside to clear the walk or just stand on the porch for a few minutes, this can help. Perhaps instead of hitting the cafeteria in your building walk around the block for some fresh air or a new lunch spot. You don't have to be in direct sunlight just natural light so being out side during the day is going to be helpful.
Second, try to do some type of out door exercise. If you're not one much for winter sports, remember you can play in the snow with your children or just walk up and down the sidewalk to be outside. Regular exercise is also important as exercise always helps to alleviate one's mood.
Third, changing your light bulbs to the type that mimic natural light can be effective for keeping seasonal depression at bay. Keep your environment as bright as possible for as long as possible; avoid turning down your lamps until it's nighttime. Likewise, turn on as many lights as possible in the morning to get your body believing it's daytime.
Fourth, watch what you eat. We all tend to eat heavier "comfort" foods in the winter that tend to make us more lethargic and not want to get out and do things we normally would on a lighter stomach.
Finally, it's important to plan activities with friends and family during the winter months as well; staying at home and just watching television will only contribute to your feeling bored and depressed. Keep these thoughts in mind, take action on implementing the 5 steps above and you'll stop seasonal depression before it stops and you'll have the best winter ever!