It is during our darkst moments that we must focus to see the light.`Aristotle
Don’t act surprised when some of your friends seem to be grumpy these nest few weeks. We have definitely started the winter weather that occurs during the months of November to February, the days are shorter and colder, and the nights longer and darker. Many people are already dealing with a considerable amount of snow already. As the climate changes, many people actually feel the effects of the season change and feel gloomy or miserable. Many feel the need to hide away and hibernate like a grizzly bear hoping for Spring. In many occasions, this isn’t simply a disdain for winter, but actually, a mood disorder is known as winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Based on statistics released by the SAD Association, approximately 12% of Canadians, 9.7% of people who live in the northern states of the USA, and 8% of people in the United Kingdom have experienced some form of winter depression. According to world statistics, the incidence of SAD increases dramatically as you go 30 degrees of latitude further north or south, while the condition is virtually unheard of in the tropics.
What is SAD?
Winter depression has a sound medical basis that involves changes in the body’s mood centers brought on by shorter daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. Most people suffering from this depressive illness experience a sense of utter isolation and loneliness. The only consolation is the fact that many people go through the same feelings during this time of the year. It provides a sense of comfort and assurance that sufferers are not alone.
Some Key SAD Symptoms
Be on the lookout for:
- Low mood that occurs daily for an extended period of time lasting more than two weeks straight and is affecting your performance at work, school or your desire to socialize
- Changes in appetite and weight (gain or loss)
- Sleep problems/Insomnia
- Withdrawal from family members and friends
- Feelings of hopelessness, excessive guilt, pessimism or having low self-esteem
- Agitation or feeling slowed down
- Overwhelming Fatigue
- Trouble concentrating, remembering and/or making decisions
- Oversensitivity or feeling like crying but not being able to
- Thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
Can Light Therapy Help?
Light therapy, one of the most effective and clinically proven treatments for SAD, has been shown to benefit some 80-85 percent of SAD cases. It may sound very simple but the process involves more than just turning on a light and sitting beside it while twiddling your thumbs as you wait for that renewed energy to power up your whole well-being.
The average home or office light emits a paltry 200-500 lux (a lux is a unit of illuminance) whereas a minimum of 2,500 lux is required to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. In comparison, a clear summer’s day can reach an intensity of 100,000 lux.
Using these measurements as a basis, a number of specially designed lightboxes have been invented that emit precisely the right amount of illumination. Symptoms of SAD gradually subside by sitting in front of one for about 30 minutes to several hours throughout the day, depending on the severity of the condition.
When it comes to the treatment of SAD symptoms, light therapy could be the best approach to consider. But to those with severe symptoms, addressing the root causes of the condition may involve the use of both antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy treatments. There are some other ideas to consider:
- Moving to a warmer climate that does not have high amounts of rain or snow
- Vacationing near the equator
- Watching movies that are set in warm, sunny, summery climates, marked improvements in mood are demonstrated. Any film with clear blue cloudless skies, palm trees, and an absence of snow may qualify for a movie therapy.
- Watching outdoor sports like cricket or golf
I hope that the information above can have a mood-enhancing effect and improve your overall well-being. If you are feeling the effects of the time or season change, please contact your doctor and discuss your symptoms.