The second half of the year might be the time of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas, but you shouldn’t feel guilty if you aren’t in a jubilant mood as we progress through autumn and towards winter. That’s because you could be affected by a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.
SAD, as this form of depression is otherwise known, tends to emerge and fade with the seasons. It has often been dubbed “winter depression” due to its prevalence during that especially dark season.
How can you diagnose yourself with SAD?
Tell-tale symptoms of SAD outlined by the NHS website include a persistently low mood, irritability and lessened interest in typical everyday activities. You might also have SAD if you often feel despair or guilt, feel sleepy even during the day and tend to sleep for longer than usual.
If you are struggling to handle what you think might be SAD, consider booking an appointment with your doctor. While SAD’s exact cause is largely elusive to researchers, it is thought that reduced exposure to sunlight with the arrival of autumn and winter might be a factor.
It has been theorised that, if you fail to get enough sunlight, your brain’s hypothalamus could be hampered, leading you to produce more melatonin and serotonin. As SAD sometimes seems to run in families, too, you can’t rule out your genes as a potential factor, either.
Experiment with lighting to see what works
If a lack of sunlight is genuinely the culprit, the remedy might seem obvious: just get yourself some more lighting! However, please heed mental health charity Mind’s advice that “different things work for different people at different times”, so resist doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
You could start by simply trying to get a higher amount of natural light into your day. You could do this through – to cite example activities – going for walks, especially in parks or gardens, or even just sitting next to a window. To add even more purpose to your outdoor pursuits, you could take up gardening, walk a dog or, if this is practically possible, exercise outside.
Invest in some new electric lights
Another way to alleviate winter SAD – though SAD can also manifest itself in the summer, when excessive light is theoretically the problem – is closing blinds before the outside darkness falls, allowing yourself to dictate the lighting conditions by setting up your own electric lights.
These can be, say, ceiling fixtures, table lamps, pendant lights, floor lamps or other electric lighting, which you could order online. Through lighting several lamps around the room rather than just relying on a single, main light, you can really help to spread the illumination around.
You could even apply a classy touch by investing in some chandeliers – yes, you can get some compatible with electric lighting – and lighting a few candles. Making yourself feeling like you’re in a quiet scene of Downton Abbey could, understandably, further help to ward off those blues.