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Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Topic #16:  What is the deal with this weather? It makes me Depressed!

It’s almost like the weather G-d’s teased us Mid-westerners and North-easterners when we got a glimpse of sunlight a few weeks ago. Our winter depression became a distant memory. The snow was melting faster than candle wax and we could see the ground – although brown and muddy, it was real ground and not snow! Then, all of a sudden, another snow storm comes barreling into your city. How RUDE!  Just when your winter blues, and for some people, your depression, started to lift  – in comes another winter blast. And what comes with another winter blast are feelings you don’t want to have…you might feel tired, sad, and unmotivated again… you may eat more (or less) than usual and can’t seem to focus like you did when the weather was a warm 40 degrees and sunny. 

Why is our mood so greatly related to the weather outside your door? Like it or not, we are creatures of nature and deeply connected not only to other people and animals, but also to the natural world around us. We feel warm and calm when the sunlight hits our skin. We like a reasonable temperature – a  breezy 73 degrees. We like colors such as greens and blues. We love the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass. We get to see and hear the birds chirping, and we know that our trees are feeding us the oxygen we so desperately need to survive. You see, it’s all connected. When we don’t get these things for a long long long period of time, our mood starts to shift. Our senses dull. There is a name for this experience in the gloomy winter months, it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected people react adversely to the decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress. It is important to note that although seasonal affective disorder usually presents in the fall and winter …”

Ok, so we know what it’s called, but what can we do about it? Put down the artificial light – computers, televisions, IPODS and your cell phones and start to search out places that can offer you a little nature. It may sound counter-productive, but going outside even in the winter and connecting with nature can be very therapeutic. Take a hike in the snow, build a snowman, go skiing or sledding. If the cold is too much to bare, search out your local plant/flower store where they carry these items for sale all year round and walk the isles. Find your nearest indoor zoo, natural history museum, or botanical garden. If you can afford it, take a weekend trip to a sunnier spot or buy a SAD light to help you get more natural sunlight in your home. Purchase a plant (a real one) and bring it into your home. Buy yourself flowers at the grocery store to brighten your mood. If your mood (or depression) is taking over and your daily activities are suffering, it’s time to seek out a mental health professional to help you cope.

 It’s up to you to put forth the effort and make things better for yourself. If we wait and rely on “Mother Nature” we may be waiting a little longer than we’d like!

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