Have you ever noticed that some seasons boost your mood, and others make you feel lethargic, bored, and even sad? Many people get the winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a proven disorder that impacts how you feel based on the season. Ultimately, the seasons can impact your mood in several ways. In this article, we’ll discuss seasonal affective disorder and the different ways the changing seasons can impact how you feel.
What is SAD?
SAD is a type of seasonal-related mood disorder, typically depression, that occurs as the seasons shift. The causes of SAD are unknown, but most experts believe less sunlight and shorter days can contribute to chemical changes in the brain. Anyone can suffer from SAD, but it’s most common in adults. Signs of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed during a certain season
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low energy and fatigue
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Changes in weight
- Difficulty concentrating
Four Ways the Seasons Can Impact Mental Health
One – Daylight Savings Time
Getting an extra hour during the Fall means spending more time during the darkness as winter approaches and days become shorter. Daylight savings time can impact mental health by causing a change in routine to avoid darkness, but also a shift to less activity because it’s getting colder out, and the days are getting shorter. Daylight savings time also decreases access to sunlight and the essential vitamin D we need for our health and wellness.
Two – Isolation
During the winter, many people become more isolated from friends and family because snow and ice make travel more difficult. Isolation can cause people to feel like they’re alone even when they’re not, and they may become less likely to reach out to others via phone calls or social media.
Three – Less Activity
People are most active in the Fall and Spring because the weather outside is comfortable. During the winter, it’s too cold and too snowy to do any fun activities, and during the summer, the heat can become unbearable, forcing more people inside. Believe it or not, some people get summertime SAD, even though it’s more common to feel the symptoms of SAD during the winter.
As you already know, activity can improve mental and physical health, boosting our moods. When we become inactive to hide from uncomfortable weather, we’re no longer producing more mood-boosting hormones through activity and exercise. When you’re not producing as many happy hormones, such as endorphins, you might start to feel a little down.
Four – Holidays and Vacations
There always seems to be more pressure from others during the winter and summer months because of holidays and vacations, which can affect our moods. Most people get stressed during the holidays because they have to plan family events or travel in icy conditions to make it to dinner. Additionally, people are expected to be around more often in the warmer months, so we often feel pressure from family and friends to hang out with them more, which can cause stress because we’re still just as busy as we were during the winter.
Five Ways to Fight Seasonal Shifts in Mental Health
SAD often has many symptoms of other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, so you shouldn’t try to self-diagnose yourself since you may require treatment. As you’ve just learned, there could be many reasons why your mood shifts from season to season, including lack of sunlight, changed routines, pressure from others, and less activity.
If you have SAD or your mood seems to shift along with the seasons, there are ways you can treat it at home through self-care, no matter the cause. Here are ways you can fight seasonal changes in your mood.
One – Maintain Your Sleep Schedule
While it might be tempting to shift your sleep schedule so you can wake up with the sun, it’s always best to wake up and go to bed at the same time, no matter when the sun comes up. Shorter, darker days in the winter can affect your brain’s melatonin production, causing a disruption in your sleep, but maintaining a sleep pattern can help you train your brain to produce more melatonin at a certain time of day to sustain balance through the changing seasons.
Two – Get Active
As we’ve already mentioned, many people become less active when the weather outside is less than ideal. No one wants to be too cold or overheated and uncomfortable. However, there are still ways you can be active in the winter and summer, including exercising at home or going to the gym. In the summer, it might be best to exercise outside during the early morning hours before the sun comes out so it won’t be too hot and you can still enjoy the season.
However, during the winter, there might not be an ideal time to exercise outside. Instead, you’ll need to bring your exercise inside through yoga, Pilates, or by using workout equipment like a foldable stationary bike. Fitting at least thirty minutes of exercise a day, no matter what the weather is doing outside, can help you maintain your mood.
Three – Practice Self Care
Knowing when to stop and take a break from stressful situations can help you improve your mood. While stress levels might be higher during some seasons than others, it’s important to eat well, get quality sleep, and find ways to manage your stress. Self-care can be anything you want it to be, as long as it improves your life in some way. If you feel like you may benefit from talking to a professional, consider trying out online therapy to help ease you through some of your tougher times.
Five – Know When to Get Help
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious at any point, don’t be afraid to talk to a professional. Therapists can help you figure out why you might be feeling the way you’re feeling and come up with ideas to help you boost your mood throughout the year, no matter how hot or cold it is outside.
Your mental health is important, and having good mental health can improve all aspects of your life to help you feel more confident, become more productive, and can help motivate you to become more physically active. Taking care of your mental health is an important part of being an adult, and it’s up to you to find ways to make yourself happy even during times of high stress.