When the sun goes down, so does our mood

The effects of seasonal depression and how to beat the winter blues

By Gabby Rente

Lifestyle Editor

As the fall semester rolls to an end, our days get shorter and shorter, leaving less sunshine to bask in as we punch out one assignment after the other.

However, I find it personally difficult to muster together motivation and energy in the colder months.

This is called seasonal depression, or more commonly known as and with an appropriate acronym, seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

According the Mayo Clinic, SAD is “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.”

SAD is not too uncommon either. About half a million people in the United States suffer from a form of SAD.

“Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, and the depression usually starts in early adulthood. SAD also can occur in children and adolescents. Older adults are less likely to experience SAD,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

To make matters even more uplifting, some people can experience SAD in the summer months as well although it is less common.

Symptoms of SAD may include: sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, extreme fatigue and lack of energy, increased need for sleep, and weight loss or weight gain.

So what can we do?

First off, if you notice any abnormality in your mood, then it never hurts to consult a doctor and seek help. Getting that second, professional opinion on what you’re going through can help.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, investing in a light box can also help with boosting your mood. They are easy to purchase and can be ordered from Amazon.

“The theory is that if you sit in front of a light box for at least 30 minutes each day (ideally first thing in the morning), the light will suppress the release of melatonin (which makes you sleepy) and trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood,” according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Going for walks in the sun or sitting by sunny windows may also help, in this case.

In a research report published in 2014 in the medical journal Medical Hypotheses found that SAD was linked to low levels of vitamin D. Taking vitamin supplements combined with a healthy, balanced diet can also help.

Overall, I find spending that little bit of time outside on a particularly sunny day helpful.

 I also recommend staying connected. Friends are an excellent source of companionship and solidarity in those moments where you feel at rock bottom.

If you or a friend is struggling with seasonal depression, then the Health Center is open 8:30 a.m.-noon and 1:00-4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can call and make an appointment at 410-778-7261.

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