As the days grow shorter and the nights become longer, it is normal to feel a little less cheerful and gloomy. The early onset of evenings, leafless trees as well as white sheets of snow extending as far as the eyes could see often bring about melancholy, lethargy and an irresistible urge to drown yourself in blankets and eat non-stop.
However, the above symptoms are pretty natural unless they persist and transform into a state of depression. Once you feel that those winter blues are so overpowering that they affect your everyday life and activities, it is time to take them seriously. These otherwise harmless winter blues might be the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is associated with weather changes and is more intense during the transition from autumn to winter as compared to spring and summers.
But why is it that the mere onset of winters, a time for long readings in front of the fireplace accompanied with hot chocolate and endless poker nights with friends becomes such a nightmare for some folks?
The short answer is lack of daylight.
The brief winter days mean that the sunlit hours are limited. Factor in the days with endless rains and snowfall and we have even less daylight to feel functional and go about our days as normal.
Now let's move on to the long answer, shall we?
These painfully reduced hours of sunlight have more far-reaching effects than simply having you cut back on daytime activities. This is because a bright sunny day does more than just bring the warmth you crave in dropping temperatures and facilitate long walks in parks, as you will soon get to know.
Sunlight is believed to raise the levels of hormone serotonin in your system. This hormone is responsible for boosting the mood as well as keeping a person calm and focused.
With lesser exposure to sunlight in winter days and decreased serotonin in the bloodstream, one might automatically feel low and depressed.
No doubt that enthusiasm and vigour drops with the mercury!
In simple terms, circadian rhythms refer to our biological clock which lets our bodies know when it's time to rest and when we should be up and about.
Our circadian rhythms are regulated by the extent of light around us. In turn, this system regulates our sleep cycles, mood and appetite. When the exposure to sunlight in winters is limited, it disrupts this biological clock and throws our circadian rhythm off the track resulting in disturbed sleep, lethargy and overall low mood.
Feel more sleepy as the evening sets in early? It is your circadian rhythm fooling your body into sleep.
Just like exposure to light triggers the production of serotonin, darkness induces the hormone melatonin in an attempt to wind down our system in preparation for the rest mode.
Longer nights during winters mean that the production of melatonin is increased. This can make you excessively sleepy and feeling lethargic.
Winters are a time for enjoying the warmth emanating from your fireplace, feeling cozy all bundled up in blankets, enjoying scrumptious soups and broths and having long walks in the park when the sun peeks through. However having winter blues or worse, SAD, can make this enjoyable season a nightmare for some.
Stay tuned for my next post on why some people are more prone to SAD than others and share your experiences with winter blues in the comments section below.
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