If you're feeling your mood falling this winter season it might not just be in your head. Instead your low mood might actually have a seasonal component. The lack of sun exposure during the winter months may be a key factor in mood changes. Sunlight can trigger the release of serotonin, the happiness chemical in the brain. Therefore, we may feel happy when we are on that beach vacation basking in the sunlight. However, without sunlight we may feel our mood worsen as our serotonin levels start to fall without adequate light. Therefore, the winter season may actually bring us a level of gloom matching the cold gloomy weather.
Seasonal affective disorder has the same symptoms as major depression disorder such as loss of energy, changes in appetite, oversleeping, and difficulty concentrating. However, seasonal affective disorder occurs seasonly often starting in September - October and lasting until March or April. Those who live in the North where one receives less hours of daylight suffer more than those who reside in the South.
So what can one do when facing low mood due to the winter season?
Research studies have found that light therapy using a light box for 20-40 minutes may actually be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder. A study done by Reeves et al found that light treatment led to significant reductions in self-reports of depression scores on the POMS-D sub scale.
- Manpreet Dhaliwal, MSW, RSW
Counsellor at MOVE Health & Wellness