When winter arrives, for most of us, the holiday cheer arrives. The town is decked with lights and people look forward to the beginning of next year with hopes and dreams. It’s the time of the year where the cold temperatures make you want to snuggle in a nook with a nice book and cup of hot chocolate or get together with family to enjoy a lavish feast for Christmas with Santa handing out presents. Sounds like a scene from a fairytale, doesn’t it?
But a seasonal change like the cold winters isn’t something a few look forward to. It’s quite the opposite. The cold weather and the absence of the bright and unrelenting sunshine trigger the onset of a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. This type of depression is usually experienced by a subset of the population living in the northern regions where there are reduced daylight hours.
You may call it the winter blues. But it isn’t the same as seasonal depression. The majority of us experience winter blues with the days being colder and gloomier with less natural light. Like most humans, almost every morning during the winter months, I resent waking up early. I would love to crawl back into bed and do nothing the whole day. This is a perfect case of winter blues.
But waking up on a cold winter morning with the grey clouds rolling in and feeling completely lonely almost every day is far from catching the winter blues. With SAD, people feel lethargic, hopeless, agitated, lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed and also experience thoughts of suicide. It may signal the start of depression or worsen an already existing case of depression. One might wonder how depression affects the mind when the season changes. Just like how the leaves fall in autumn and grow back in spring, the mind loses its vigour in the winter months. A scientific explanation states two reasons – an imbalance of hormone levels and disruption of the biological clock.
Hormones influence one’s temperament
Serotonin and melatonin are two hormones that directly affect the mood of an individual. The decrease in sunlight causes the level of these hormones to drop which may cause seasonal depression. When it comes to our biological clock, research shows that it shares a compound relationship with depression. A decrease in the sunlight during the winter months can cause a shift in the body’s circadian rhythm which in turn affects an individual’s mood.
Tweaking your lifestyle can uplift your mood
The sun is the primary culprit when SAD is concerned. So what can we do about it to stay cheerful? We definitely cannot do anything about the sun. But we can maintain a schedule and keep ourselves active. A healthy lifestyle can keep many problems at bay.
Put on your sweaters and jackets and go out for a walk when the sun is out on those gloomy days. Squeeze in at least 10 mins of exercise every day as it is shown to increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the body. Even though the weather may deter you from going out, don’t miss the opportunity to hang out with friends and pursue the hobbies that bring you joy.
Almost every one of us uses the weather as a go-to conversational starter. But it’s surreal how the changes in the weather can make some of us reticent too. Sadness is a human emotion that is normal. Having a dialogue about the way your feeling and cutting yourself loose from the expectation of being happy during the holidays can make things feel a lot better.
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