Rain, Rain, Go Away…
Is it coincidence that as rain falls from the sky our mood takes a nosedive? Further, like bears, are we are inclined to socially isolate or hibernate during periods of dark, cold weather? Turns out the answer to both questions is no! Seasonal Affect Disorder, aptly known as SAD, is a depressive disorder that occurs when an individual’s depressive episode is connected to a particular season. Dreary news considering the bleak winter months we have ahead! Thankfully, extensive research on this topic has explained how weather impacts our mood, and has identified strategies to help combat the distressing symptoms.
Studies have shown that a lack of sunlight causes our bodies to create more melatonin, the hormone that helps make us feel sleepy. While catching a few extra Z’s may sound appealing, there are some unfortunate down sides. As our melatonin reserves increase, our body decreases its production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that impacts things like mood, appetite, sleep, and sex drive (Scaccia, A., 2017). Those lower levels of serotonin can have some adverse effects on our mood, including increased reports of depression and anxiety, as well as a decrease in mental clarity and emotional stability.
In addition to a lack of sunlight, research has also found a positive correlation between bad weather and stormy emotions. Studies have indicated that individuals are at increased risk of loneliness, depression, and even experience higher levels of aggression during periods of high precipitation (Taylor, J., n.d.; Grohol, J., 2019). Further, rainier days have led to higher self-reports of overall life dissatisfaction (Grohol, J., 2019).
What Can I Do?
In summary, individuals struggling with SAD can feel, well, pretty sad. So what can we do to combat these weather blues? Thankfully, a number of effective solutions and treatments are available for SAD sufferers!
Individuals with mild SAD symptoms can use these strategies to combat weather woes:
- Exercise – boost the serotonin levels in your brain!
- Spend time outdoors, even during crummy weather! – You will still get some benefits from UV light!
- Brighten it up – Turn on the lights, open the shades, let light into your house!
- Engage in a self-care activity – Play a game, complete an arts and craft project, get dinner with a friend!
For more moderate and severe symptoms, light therapy, exposure to artificial light, can create the same mood benefits of natural sun exposure (Mayo Clinical Staff, 2017a). In addition, medication, like an anti-depressant, and psychotherapy, may be required (Mayo Clinical Staff, 2017b).
If you or someone you know is struggling with SAD symptoms, please reach out and seek help with a trained professional. Here at Original Path Counseling Centers we are eager to work with you to ultimately leave you, regardless of the weather, feeling like your best self.