If you are more sluggish and cranky than usual these last few weeks, it could be related to the shorter days, less exposure to sunlight, and colder temperatures. A 2008 study by J. Denison and colleagues looked at how temperature, wind power, sunlight, day length, precipitation, and air pressure affected mood. Over 1,000 people completed online diaries he linked with weather station data. The researchers determined changes in temperature, wind, and sunlight had negative effects on mood. Seems obvious to those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Waking up in the dark makes it harder to get out of bed. The snooze alarms on our phones work overtime during this time of year. Shorter days cause high carb food cravings. Many of us start packing on the pounds as winter approaches. Holiday food feasts add insult to injury.
We, humans, fall out of emotional wellness during stressful life events. Much like getting a physical illness. Our immune systems get overwhelmed by a virus and we fall ill. We aren’t necessarily terminally ill but we need help and support with our recovery back to wellness. It’s the same with our changing moods. The continuation of COVID’s social distancing and other restrictions has compounded has tipped the scale where our stressors overwhelm our coping strategies. Trailtalk’s Rocketman knows that fear resides in the past (would of, could of, should of thinking) and in the future (creating outcomes, worst-case scenario thinking). We all fall out of balance when we thoughts time travel. Living in the present moment, mindfully is where we find our baseline level of contentment.
Like Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, The Tipping Point, it’s all about time at task. We have to practice changing our thinking if we want to change how we feel and act. See your therapist if you want to learn about the think, feel, act cycle. Some of us need more than therapy during the changes of season. If you have a family history of depression and anxiety, contact your medical provider for additional support.
Here are a few Tips from the Trail to help with SAD:
Try adding additional light to your morning routine for 20-30 minutes. Get a SAD Therapy LightBox. Look for a lightbox 10,000-lux light that is specifically used for seasonal affective disorder. We have a couple listed on our website store. Check Costco and Amazon. The key is to use it daily. Talk to your medical provider or therapists if you need help choosing the right light box for your morning routine.
Take extra Vitamin D. Ask your medical provider for a simple blood test before you start a supplement, so you know how much to take every day. Even if you are an avid outdoors person, the use of sunscreen prevents us from absorbing adequate amounts of Vitamin D. Low vitamin D means low serotonin, which means low mood.
Get a Carhartt jacket or other type of warm snow clothes, a pair of yaktraxs, boot heaters, hand warmers, and hit the trails! One of my favorite quotes is, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, it’s just bad clothing.”
Find an accountability partner who will be waiting on you to slip on the snow boots and meet them outside. Walking and talking in nature heals. Move your body and clear your mind.
If adding light therapy to your morning routine, taking vitamin D, getting outdoors every day for even 30 minutes doesn’t lift your mood, seek out an emotional tuneup with a therapist. Weather changes can affect our moods, but some of us have depression and mood shifting all year round. Get help and make this season brighter for you and your loved ones!