Do Dark Days Lead to Dark Moods?

Winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, is just behind us, which means we’re in the thick of the dark season. All around us in nature we see life slowing down in wintertime. From pausing plant life, to dormant bugs, to hibernating animals, life outside is taking a break this time of year. It makes sense that human physiology might too.

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Shorter days and longer nights can mean less natural light exposure, leading to more melatonin production (our natural sleep hormone) and can have a big influence in our energy levels and sleepiness. This may mean that allowing for a seasonal pattern of energy expenditure, as we see in nature, and following your body’s cues to slow down in the winter and sleep a little more may be helpful.

But for some, this season represents darker moods and real mental health challenges. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that can mimic major depression, and is characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of worthlessness or guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts about death or suicide[1]

Importantly, in SAD, these symptoms get better and worse with changes in the season. For the vast majority of SAD patients, winter is when the symptoms are most challenging. [1]

If you’re concerned about seasonal affective disorder, seek help if your symptoms interfere with your relationships at home or at work, or if you experience suicidal thoughts. Natural medicine can help no matter the severity of your wintertime mood challenges. Be sure to schedule an appointment today for some wintertime support.

[1] David Avery, MD. Seasonal affective disorder: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc. http://www.uptodate.com (Accessed on December 30, 2017.)

Katy Morrison, ND, LAc