How the weather can make you SAD

We’ve noticed something happening occasionally in the Vibes section of Sunshine in the Winter. The feed, which is usually full of chipper messages and smile emojis, gets peppered with sad faces when it’s cloudy, cold, and rainy. Why is everyone on Sunshine so bummed?!?! Could it be seasonal affective disorder?


What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during a particular season. While people with SAD can become depressed during summer, it’s most common in Winter, which is why some people call it Winter depression or Winter blues.

What causes it?

Hmm…we’re not exactly sure, but experts think it might have to do with a lack of sunlight. Lack of light can cause disturbances in sleep patterns and imbalances in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.

Oh no! Do I have it??

Like we always say at Sunshine, weather affects everyone differently and different SAD symptoms can appear in different people. In general, SAD is characterized by irritability, sadness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, lack of interest in activities, craving carbohydrates, and weight gain.

In short, it sucks.

On the surface it might seem like depression, but the difference here is that it’s triggered by the season and the weather. That’s part of why it’s so important to track your moods alongside the weather. When you do that, Sunshine can start recognizing patterns for you. If you feel distracted when it’s rainy, but a sunny day boosts your energy, you might have SAD and you’ll need more than just an umbrella on a rainy day.

Great, I have it…now what?

The more you track your feelings along with the weather on Sunshine, the more conclusions we’re able to draw about how the weather is affecting you. This allows us to give you better, more specific advice so you don’t just have to wait for Winter to be over while you’re trapped in a funk.

Here’s a few things you can do to beat the Winter blues:

Exercise

When the weather sucks, no one wants to go for a run outside, but exercise releases mood boosting endorphins, which can fight anxiety and depression. There’s plenty of exercises you can do indoors. You can join a gym, take a hot yoga or dance class, or even do HIIT cardio right in your own living room. Any activity will help, but consistency is key, so make a commitment to yourself.

Eat Well

It’s tempting to load up on comfort foods in colder weather, but large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar can actually exacerbate SAD symptoms. So, enjoy the cookies and mashed potatoes in moderation and maintain a well-balanced diet full of seasonal fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and lean proteins. You can find a list of in-season fruits and vegetables here: http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month

Spend Time with Friends

Studies have shown that socializing can improve your mood and reduce anxiety and depression. Harsh weather, low energy, or bad moods can cause you to break off plans with friends and isolate yourself, but forcing yourself to follow through and brave the weather to be with people you care about will improve your mood overall.

Practice Relaxation

Journaling, drawing, meditating or doing yoga can all help relax your mind and spirit. Set aside some time each day to release negative energy and calm down.

Start a New Hobby

If your Summer hobby is to go chill by the pool or go for long hikes, you probably find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands in the Winter. But don’t just sit on the couch and resign yourself to binge watching! Find a hobby you can do indoors no matter what the weather. Learning a new instrument or language, honing a new craft like knitting or sculpting, or teaching yourself how to cook can be rewarding hobbies that give you a sense of fulfillment and calm.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’ve done what you can but anxiety and depression persist, talk to your doctor about how they can help you combat SAD. Light therapy or even anti-depressants may be necessary to help you feel better during the long Winter months. Never be afraid to reach out for help.

The Sunshine Team