Learn more about seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder: How Seasons Change Your Mood


Have you noticed that you feel differently in each season? Maybe you’re happy in spring, and feel like hibernating in the winter.

 

Seasons can affect our mood in a variety of ways, and some people are more sensitive to changes in the weather than others. Most people feel happy in the spring. The weather is moderate, there’s lots of sunshine, and we are able to spend more time outdoors.

For some people, their mood worsens in the summer when it’s hot and sticky outside. The most common change in feeling is from fall to winter when many people notice a major downward slope in how they feel.

Reasons for Seasonal Changes in Mood

Why this happens isn’t fully understood. When winter comes, the change in available sunlight could relate to problems with low mood or depression experienced by some people in the winter months. When the sun is out, your brain makes more

As fall turns into winter, the days get shorter, and we get much less sunshine. For many of us, we drive to work in the dark and drive home in near darkness. This lack of sunshine, also can relate to the change in sleep-wake patterns

Winter Depression

For some of us, these seasonal drops in mood can interfere with our daily activities. Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression common in fall and winter that resolves in spring.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Sleeping a lot but still feeling tired
  • Craving sweets or carbs
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling sad, grumpy, irritable, or anxious

How to Boost Your Mood

For SAD, light therapy is usually the first choice for treatment. Regular use of light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a specially-designed light box for 30-45 minutes each day can help patients with SAD or winter depression feel much better.

Antidepressants may also help you get through the cold weather days. For proper guidance and monitoring on the use of light therapy or selecting an antidepressant for treatment of winter depression, please make an appointment to see your doctor. Patients with bipolar disorder or manic depression will need specialized instructions on using light therapy and should consult their psychiatrist before trying light therapy. Added information on light therapy is available at the website www.cet.org.

To boost your mood, whether you have SAD or simply the winter blues, make sure you exercise every day. It’s best to do some level of physical activity early in the day.

Get outside every day. Take a short walk on your lunch break, especially on any sunny days you get.

The more exposure you get to sunlight or even bright lights indoors, the better you’re likely to feel. Know that when spring arrives, your mood should start to lift.