This time of year can trigger mood changes most notably seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This usually occurs when the days have less hours than night leaving us with lower levels of sunshine. This happens most frequently in places that where longer nights outlast the sunlight for days.
Many of the symptoms manifest themselves in the manner of depression:
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
- Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
When this condition continues for long periods, after the exposure to sunlight has returned in the warmer months, then there could be a more serious long-term depression requiring the advice of a physician.
I know I suffer from SAD when the light on the East Coast fades early about 4:30 PM and sunlight is not as strong during the day. What I have found to help me through this phase is to use light therapy. Every morning while I’m getting ready for the day I turn on my light box. It’s not an instant “oh I feel better” but more of a gradual ease into the day that is already dark and when very little opportunity for me to get natural sunlight.
I wouldn’t recommend this as an alternative to sunlight if I didn’t use it myself and see the difference. On days that I don’t get my light exposure I don’t feel the same. It’s hard to describe but there is a real difference in mood. I can equate it to having too many rainy days without any sunshine.
Have you tried alternative therapies for decreased sunlight exposure? Let me know what works for you by posting a comment below.