Daylight savings has officially come and gone. For most of us, this means the days have gotten shorter, and those dreaded “winter blues” are starting to kick in. The “winter blues” are simply another name for seasonal affective disorder. And this form of seasonal depression affects about 5% of our population.
But what is it, exactly? And better yet, is there a way to avoid seasonal depression?
As licensed mental health therapists, we are here to clear the air on the seasonal affective disorder. Keep reading to learn what it is, why it happens, and how to cope with it.
Contrary to what many believe, there is scientific backing behind seasonal depression. According to John Hopkins Medicine, less sunlight combined with shorter days actually triggers a chemical shift in our brains.
When it’s dark out, our bodies naturally increase melatonin production (the sleep-inducing hormone). Because the sun sets earlier in the winter, our melatonin production increases. Additionally, our serotonin levels (aka the mood-boosting hormone) dip with less sun exposure.
Instead of typing ‘do I have seasonal depression?’ into your search bar, check out this list of common seasonal depression symptoms:
Are you or a loved one struggling with seasonal depression? If so, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Also, know that there are treatments available. While your treatment plan depends on your specific circumstances, it will probably consist of the following:
Because decreased sunlight is what causes your hormonal changes to occur, spending time outside can relieve your symptoms. We recommend walking around the block, sitting on the front porch, or simply reading by a window in your home.
For some of us, it’s not possible to increase our daily dosage of sunlight. If this is the case for you, you can try light therapy instead. Essentially, light therapy uses special light bulbs or lamps to help with seasonal depression.
Psychotherapy can help those struggling with seasonal depression. Specifically, cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy can change the distorted views you may have of yourself or your environment. At Fort Wellness Counseling, we have helped countless people overcome seasonal depression by working with them in routine therapy appointments.
Lastly, there are prescription medications available to correct the chemical imbalance that causes the seasonal affective disorder.
Looking for a more natural cure for seasonal depression? Don’t worry, there are plenty. Below are some of our top recommendations for natural remedies for seasonal depression:
Maintaining your level of exercise and eating a healthy diet are two phenomenal ways of combatting seasonal affective disorder. Not only will these boost your energy levels, but they’ll replenish your body with mood-boosting endorphins.
Studies have linked gratitude to an individual’s mental health and well-being. Therefore, keeping a gratitude journal can help you feel more satisfied in your life and boost your self-esteem. If you need help getting started, check out these 5 Self-Care Journaling Prompts for Mental Health.
Socializing with friends and family is another way to avoid seasonal depression. Not only does social interaction bolster your emotional support system, but it also lightens your mood and makes you feel happier. If it’s not possible to socialize in person, chatting over the phone or making video calls will do the trick.
When you’re in the midst of seasonal affective disorder, it’s easy to focus on the negative. However, we encourage you to refocus your thoughts/energy on taking care of yourself. Engage in activities that make you feel good (think: taking a bath, reading a book, or going to yoga). Or you could try out a new hobby.
If you or a loved one is struggling with seasonal depression, speaking with a licensed mental health therapist can help. No one should have to carry their burdens alone. And a professional therapist (like ourselves!) can equip you with resources and strategies to accomplish real change.
Here at Fort Wellness Counseling, we have helped hundreds of people overcome their feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. Book your initial consultation today, and we’d be happy to do the same for you.