With the colder weather setting in, longer nights and shorter days, many people become depressed or experience a low mood, often known as the “winter blues”. In severe cases this depression, brought on by winter weather, is clinically known as “seasonal affective disorder” or “SAD”.
There is sound scientific evidence to support the fact that the change in seasons can impact your mood, with many supporting the concept that the issue is connected with the way light affects our bodies. Some hypothesise that as light enters the eyes changes in hormone levels occur. Light entering the body causes the cessation of melatonin, the sleep hormone, causing us to wake. Those who suffer from SAD are considered to be impacted by the reduction of daylight in winter and their bodies produce higher levels of melatonin. This, in turn, causes them to feel tired, lack energy, motivation, and to experience other symptoms related to depression.
If your mood is unusually low and you are not motivated to do your usual activities, lack of daylight could be having an impact on how you feel. Reduced energy or motivation can cause a person to cut back on their daily tasks and responsibilities. Some people don’t enjoy going out as much with friends and tend to stay indoors, further reducing their access to daylight. When this starts happening it is easy to slide into a downward spiral. As your activity levels decrease, you become even more lethargic and lack even more motivation. You stop doing more of the things you otherwise enjoy and miss out on the pleasant feelings associated with these positive experiences.
Likewise, not attending to tasks and responsibilities means they tend to pile up, which can further create problems as the person becomes overwhelmed with the mounting pile of things they are avoiding. Not managing our tasks also then starts to impact our self esteem, as we feel guilty for not doing things and may start to see ourselves as defective or a failure. One way to help reverse the downward spiral of low mood or depressed feelings is to simply increase your activity levels. Very often we think we have to wait until we feel like doing something before we can do it, when actually the reverse can be true. Sometimes simply going for a walk or completing a task can help us feel a sense of mastery and achievement.
Engaging in pleasant activities or smashing that to-do list in a realistic and achievable way can kick you off on an upward spiral out of that low mood.
Becoming more active, particularly outdoors when the sun is out, has several advantages:
Being active helps you feel better
Being active gives you more energy and reduces fatigue
Being active clarifies your thinking
If increasing your activity levels and being outdoors as much as you can, still isn’t helping your mood, we may need to look at your thinking patterns which may well be further contributing to the downward spiral. For more information on how thinking patterns and feelings contribute to our mood, call or make an appointment online with our counsellor, Lyn on 02 8406 0679.