Spring is most definitely in the air. The daffodils are peeping through and the sun is shining. Does it make a difference to how you feel? People seem happier and lighter with a more enthusiastic spring in their step this week. But does the pending change in season really make that much difference to our mood? Does the arrival of Spring help us feel better about life? Or is it all a myth?
Seasonal Affective Disorder
It’s a well-known fact that many people suffer with SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Most animals react to the Winter months in terms of behaviour, metabolism and human beings are just the same. With the reduction in light, many of us stay indoors more, sleep longer and eat more comforting food. For some this can turn into Winter Blues and for others, it becomes the more severe SAD.
The Lumie website quotes the following as symptoms of SAD, although not everyone will experience them all:
- Sleep problems – oversleeping but not refreshed, cannot get out of bed, needing a nap in the afternoon
- Overeating – carbohydrate craving leading to weight gain
- Depression, despair, misery, guilt, anxiety – normal tasks become frustratingly difficult
- Family / social problems – avoiding company, irritability, loss of libido, feeling emotionally ‘numb’
- Lethargy – too tired to cope, everything an effort
- Physical symptoms – often joint pain or stomach problems, lowered resistance to infection
- Behavioural problems – especially in young people
If you have suffered with any, or a combination of these symptoms, and dislike the colder, darker Winter months it’s likely that your body is reacting to a lack of sunlight. The lack of light, directly into your eyes, causes a rise in the amount of melatonin in your body, so making you sleepy and depressed. It isn’t known why some people are more prone to the effects that others though.
How to Beat the Winter Blues
We all know that getting active is a great way to beat depression. If you think you’ve been suffering with SAD or the Winter Blues, being active outdoors has a double benefit of course, giving you much-needed daylight as well as general exercise. Why not go for that bike ride!
Another, well-regarded way to help beat SAD and the Winter Blues is to use a light box. Research has shown that using the right sort of light box for just 30 minutes a day will increase your serotonin levels, decrease the melatonin and help reduce symptoms.Lumie pioneered research into this area, and supplies Lightboxes to the NHS. They were also the first company to manufacture the Active Bodyclock light a dawn simulator, which allows you to wake up to gradually increasing light. The growing levels of light in the room trigger your body to stop producing melatonin, and to produce much needed cortisol which makes you feel alert, awake and refreshed. They help boost your mood, energy and productivity levels all day, and many people rely on them in the Winter months.
Going away to a sunny climate, or on a skiing trip can help, but often sufferers report an increase in symptoms when they return.
Are you a Sufferer?
Maybe you weren’t sure if you were affected. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the lighter, brighter days has lifted your mood, helped you eat more healthily and generally given you a spring in your step. The lighter mornings help us get up out of bed and make us feel less sleepy generally. If you’ve noticed all of these things in the last week, it would be worth noting how you feel later in the year once the days get shorter again.