Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cloudy red sunset

When the Sun Sets, the Sadness Rises

Couple more hours ’till 7pm… The sun approaches 5pm and your sadness is thriving. You scratch your head wondering why this repeats year after year. You hate the darkness; it makes the day feel shorter. A shorter day means less time to have fun. Less fun means more isolation. More isolation attracts sadness. Feeling sad means you’re in a rotten state of mind again. And the pattern only continues as fall progresses into winter. Once winter arrives, you pray that you can see spring again; or at least people with seasonal affective disorder do.

The key to avoiding sadness is learning how to be positive regardless of changes in your environment. You don’t have control over what happens around you, but you have control over your mind. It’s when you lose control of your mind that you become most susceptible to outside forces. And when this happens, you become an easy target. In this case, time is the outside force. As fall approaches, it gets darker out earlier in the evening. When winter arrives, 4:20pm becomes your last hit before the darkness settles in at 5pm.

White woman suffering from seasonal affective disorder, standing outside in snow

So What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depressive disorder that causes people to become sad during seasons with shorter daylight hours. In addition, less sunlight during the winter months also contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, sadness, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, etc. The most common months to experience SAD are January and February. Other symptoms may include:

  • Craving carbohydrates
  • Hypersomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Pacing and the inability to sit still
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts

The disorder usually starts between the ages of 18 and 30. Treatment involves light therapy, antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. SAD goes away during spring and summer, but therapy and medications help alleviate the symptoms sooner. Seasonal affective disorder occurs due to a biochemical imbalance in your brain, believed to be caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. It’s unknown why some people experience SAD and others do not. It definitely does not help if you live in a location that lacks sufficient sunny days during the year.

What is your experience with SAD? If any, what have you found to be helpful?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

How Weather Affects Your Mood

Yellow city bus on snowy road between buildings during daytime

Elements of Earth: Different States of Mind

Rainy: This is that cushy mental feeling where you know that your day is gone, (meaning you’re stuck inside) and that you’re totally fine with getting cozy and not accomplishing much. How does weather affect your mood? This state of mind can also be accompanied by excitement and stimulation, such as getting ready to study something in your area of interest; study for any looming exams or reading your favorite book or novel. When tapped into this, you don’t even want to go outside; you have brought the outside world in. This is how the weather affects your mood.

You stare out the window and find comfort in the dropping rain, observing the various speeds of the droplets change over a matter of time. If you’re lucky to experience a euphoric window breeze, then you’re practically sold at this point. Include meditation and prayer and become one with your environment; inwardly-outwardly connected.

How Weather Affects Your Mood: The Winter Months

Snowy: When you know that you’re going to get hit by a snowstorm, your mind is already prepared several days beforehand; it becomes a rehearsal when two or more storms make landfall during one season. When a storm arrives, oftentimes early in the morning, you wake up knowing that there’s no way you’re going to work that day. Sometimes you wake up early in the morning, still dark out, and quickly put on your coat to check out the outdoors. You surprisingly step out into 12 inches of snow; it feels like walking on ice cream (vanilla all the way). When you realize that there’s no way you’re driving to work, your state of mind disconnects from any work-related matters; you go back in your inner world.

With the snow accumulating and making your outside surroundings like a fairy-tail, you begin to relax and appreciate your time off. Snow has a calming effect because it puts you in a mood of intense relaxation. There is something very comforting about seeing snow fall while getting warm in the comforts of your living room. If rainy is the cushy state of mind, then snowy is cushy x 2. This is how weather affects your mood.

Beach and blue ocean waves during sunrise

Weather and Mood: Here comes the Sun

Sunny: Must we even get into this one? If living in the Northeast, you’ll probably easily relate. California readers, I’m sorry; I know it’s a different world out there. Bottom line: you appreciate every moment of it. It brightens your mood, excites and stimulates you, is easy to make plans to and feels amazing on your skin when you step outside. The sunny state of mind is like drinking two extra cups of great morning coffee (without actually drinking them). You feel ready to tackle the day, multitask and save time, plan and conquer and feel accomplished by evening.

Cloudy: This might be the worst state of mind (maybe even top 10 for humankind). We’re not including rain here. This is solely a cloudy day with no smile in the sky, like as if the sun is hiding or taking a break. In this state of mind, depression is very easy to kick into; for some, it’s only to the degree of sadness. Let’s admit it, you can feel sad during cloudy days! There’s nothing to hide here. I don’t know one person who enjoys cloudy days. Try living in places like Pittsburgh, PA where I grew up; it’s literally sunny every 4-5 days or so. It makes a big difference waking up in a state where it’s sunny all the time, versus a state where the sun is interrupted by heavy layers of clouds. I’m sorry, but I rather pick a zip code with much sun.

Chills: Are you cold yet?

Chilly: This is when you’re literally approaching winter around the corner, but you can still get away with your favorite light clothes. This is when you throw on a long-sleeve shirt and can still get away with comfort, sometimes even during evenings. But there is something anxiety-provoking about the chilly experience; it makes you feel like difficulties are lying ahead due to the winter season approaching. Chilly is like kissing the season of Fall away and welcoming winter into your life. This is how weather affects your mood.

What’s your experience with the various weatherly states of mind?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

weather affecting mood smiley winking GIF face