Between November and February, the days are getting shorter and colder, and the nights are longer and darker. Season change seems to affect many people, and they do not understand why they feel sad and miserable. This mood disorder is called winter depression or seasonal affective disorder. In North America and Northern Europe, it is estimated that about half of the people are depressed in the wintertime.
Norman E. Rosenthal, a physician, described the seasonal affective disorder in 1984. Winter depression symptoms include a change in sleep patterns, weight gain, and also suicidal thoughts that are the results of changes in body and mood caused by shorter daylight hours and lack of sunlight.
Winter depression is the most common north of the Tropic of Cancer and south of the Tropic of Capricorn. What matters is the length of the daylight hours, not the weather. Depression in the winter is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
People who live in northern climates suffer because of the seasonally shortened days. People who live where the days are short in winter are victims of the brain’s chemical reaction to lesser hours of daylight.
Lack of sun cause winter depression
Most sufferers of this depressive illness suffer from complete isolation and loneliness. But the fact that many people take the same roughness during this season provides comfort and assurance that they are not alone. As the cliché goes, misery loves the company.
One of the most effective and clinically proven treatments is “light therapy,” which has been shown to produce favorable effects on about 80-85 percent of seasonal affective disorder cases. Treatment means more than turning on a light and sitting beside it while twisting your thumbs while waiting for the new renewed energy to “bring the whole well-being” into health.
Light is the key
The average home or office light emits 200-500 lux (a lux is a unit of light quantity) while at least 2500 lux is needed to ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. By comparison, a bright summer day can reach the intensity of 100,000 lux.
Thanks to these discoveries, some specially designed lightboxes are available that give the right lighting quality and quantity. The light gradually lessens the symptoms from one minute to 30 minutes, depending on the severity of the condition.
Light therapy for depression
Light therapy can be the best treatment for the symptoms. However, treating the root that causes the condition may include both antidepressants and psychotherapeutic treatments, especially for severe symptoms.
Studies have shown that the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder dramatically increases above 30 degrees latitude to the north or south, as the condition is virtually unknown in tropical countries. A travel or vacation trip to these countries can enhance mood and wellness.
When one is watching movies shot in sunny, summer-weather shows a noticeable improvement in mood, research shows that it’s due to the bright blue, cloudless skies, palm trees, and the absence of snow.
One can achieve the same positive mood if merely look at outdoor sports such as football or golf. Excessive exposure to indoor activities like snooker, darts, and bowling, however, has resulted in a depressive condition.
Other things that usually help:
- Eat healthier foods
- Accept the weather as it is
- Plan your daily routine
- Improve your health
- Avoid obnoxious people
And the most important: Exercise. Walking is one of the best exercises for depression.