When temperatures drop and daylight hours get shorter, some of us may find ourselves experiencing sudden feelings of sadness or tiredness. Oftentimes these “winter blues” can be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that is directly related to a lack of sunlight. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as one in six people suffer from SAD every year. SAD is diagnosed four times more often in women than man, and younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults.

Lack of sunlight can influence hormones in the body that affect mood and sleep patterns. This disruption can contribute to feelings of depression, irritability, and low energy. Studies have also shown that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and SAD. In addition to one’s diet, the body produces vitamin D through regular exposure of bare skin to sunlight. This is less likely to happen during the winter months, where people spend more time indoors.

Other symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include weight gain, social withdrawal, feeling sluggish and having difficulty concentrating. These symptoms have the potential to negatively affect your health, relationships, and productivity at work. If you find yourself feeling down for days at a time, reach out to a professional for additional support.

Tips for Reducing Symptoms of SAD

  • Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule
  • Don’t sit in dark rooms. Keep your blinds open and let sunlight in during daytime hours.
  • Avoid isolation. Keep connected with your family and friends.
  • Exercising regularly can boost hormones that help you feel happy.
  • Bundle up and spend some time outdoors – even if it’s cloudy, spending time in the daylight will help.
  • Keeping a journal can help you get some negative feelings out of your system.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Mental Health America, Vitamin D Council, Resources to Recover. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

If you or a loved one needs help, call 800-204-8600 today for a free mental health consultation.