Daylight Savings Time was created to save energy by extending daylight into the evenings rather than have it in the morning during the summer months. Thinking more people would spend more time outside and less time inside using electricity, we still implement DST in many areas of the world. The return to “normal” time in the Autumn can be a hard adjustment for many as the weather turns chilly and more darkness creeps in.
Whether or not you’re on the DST bandwagon, the decrease in sunlight over the colder months can play a role in your overall mood.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody” (mayoclinic.org)
I began noticing I was affected by SAD in high school. Although I tossed it up to hormones and high school drama, it continued to follow me while I was in college. And in college, it got a lot worse. Sure, I was happy to be home for 6 weeks and have a break from classes, exams, and writing papers in the winter, but the dark days got to me. I spent all day in my room. I would listen to music, write poetry, or read. But I did not want to do anything else. I rarely left the house. And my friends never heard from me until it was time to move back into the dorms for the spring semester. The beginning of the spring semester was always hard as I managed to deal with SAD while being forced to go out to class, interact with people, and live with room mates.
My health journey started in my 20’s. I was also dealing with IBS, lactose intolerance, allergies, and weight gain. There wasn’t medication for IBS symptoms so I set out to heal myself and manage my condition through exercise and diet changes. After an elimination diet and knowing my triggers, training to run a 5K, and slowly reintroducing some foods, I noticed a lot of changes. Yes, I drop about 35 pounds on my 155 lbs frame. But I also noticed I felt better, had more energy, my IBS wasn’t taking a hold of my life, and the cold, dark months no longer plagued me with depression.
Keeping my healthy journey going over the last 10+ years (and getting even healthier), I have never dealt with SAD since then. Sure I get a little down when Christmas is done and all the twinkling lights get put away, but I don’t dread each coming day til Springtime.
SAD is usually self-diagnosed, though you can talk to your doctor about it to make it official. If you’re not dealing with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, there are some ways to reduce the affect of SAD in your life.
Ways to reduce SAD:
- Vitamin D supplements can help the production of the serotonin levels that you would normally keep higher from sunlight in the warmer months of the year.
- Diet changes- whole foods, less processed. Your body is meant to ingest whole, natural foods. When too much processed foods enter the body, the body doesn’t know what to do with them, fights them as foreign objects, and takes energy away from repairing and healing your healthy cells.
- Cut down on sugar and too much dairy– leading to inflammation that causes your body not to function properly, this is linked to eating more whole foods. Sugar feeds inflammation like a plague, causing all sorts of issues as well as mental fog. When already dealing with SAD, mental clarity is a must!
- Cut down on caffeine–drops leave you tired and have less strength to battle your mind over depressive thoughts
- Cut down on alcohol. We all know it’s a mood depressor. It also ignites your appetite; gaining weight can leave you feeling even more low.
- Exercise- hormones boost mood, you’ll feel productive, and many offer a chance to get outside to get some sunlight
- Light therapy to mimic the sun has been shown to help some people
Implementing some of these changes may help your SAD symptoms so you can enjoy and manage the winter months without hiding away in your house.
*SAD may go beyond a slight decrease in mood over the winter months. If this happens to you, please seek out your primary care doctor for a referral and more information.