Are you sad, or is it SAD? If you are like me; when daylight savings “falls back”, you start to fall into a little bit of a slump. Maybe you start feeling just a little “blah” one day, but then it lasts a few days, and then a few weeks, and it doesn’t get any better. Maybe you wake up and look outside and see a dark, dreary day and want to crawl back into bed. Is this sadness? Depression?
It depends on your own specific mental health symptoms, but generally speaking; when these symptoms show up towards the beginning of the fall/winter seasons it is due to SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder). SAD just means that your brain is sensitive to the reduction in daylight hours that occur when the seasons change. *It doesn’t happen to everyone, and symptoms can mirror major depression, so always check with your primary care physician if you suspect you may be experiencing any symptoms.
Many shift workers in our area can probably attest to going into work in the dark and coming home in the dark, never seeing a single minute of the sun for months. This is terrible for your brain and your circadian rhythm, which tells your brain when it is time to go to bed and when to wake up. Why is this important? In the summer months your body doesn’t suffer from light deficiency due to the many hours of sunlight, but in the winter you are less likely to be outside as often or for as long. This affects your body’s ability to produce enough serotonin, which means less serotonin can convert to melatonin to help you fall asleep at night. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed, but that isn’t to say that many men don’t suffer. In Canada, we suffer more than most of the world because of our location so far north of the equator.
As a therapist and someone who suffers from SAD most winters, I have learned ways of coping for myself and have been very satisfied with my use of light therapy. I use it every morning in my bathroom while I am getting ready, and it has changed my winters for the better! It helps me wake up faster and improves my mood on those dreary days.
What is light therapy? Light therapy is an artificial light source that you can buy in many forms (box-style table lamps are the most popular). They range in price from $30 to $300; don’t require a prescription and can be purchased easily online through any store you choose. I highly recommend purchasing the highest level you can afford to gain the most benefits from the artificial rays. These lights are meant to mimic the natural sunlight, which means you can sit in front of it every day for just 10 minutes to soak up the minimum amount of sun required to maintain your serotonin levels. One study in 2015 on light therapy found that it can be just as effective as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Want free therapy? Go outside as much as possible! Want cheaper therapy? Buy a therapy light! Want regular priced therapy? Come see me!
*We are hoping to offer FREE light therapy at Counselling Bruce County in 2023, so stay tuned for that announcement! Want more free access? Request light therapy at your doctor’s offices and social service agencies to be added to their waiting rooms for everyone to enjoy!
Written by Ashley Baldwin MSW RSW
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Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash