Even though I’m a self-proclaimed winter lover, I have to admit that the colder temperatures and shorter days have definitely made me more moody at times. I’m sure many others have also experienced some form of the winter blues, but recently I’ve heard the term “SAD” (Seasonal Affected Disorder) being circulated around campus to describe this type of moodiness. Although many of us may be affected by winter conditions, for some people, winter can affect their entire sense of well-being.
So what is SAD, really?
SAD is a type of clinical depression that occurs as the seasons change, usually with the onset of winter and can last until spring. It’s thought that SAD is caused by a lack of sunlight, especially with the days being so much shorter in the winter. In some cases, people with SAD may experience feelings of hopelessness and melancholy. It can also impact your interactions with others by making you more withdrawn or causing a loss of interest in work, school, and other normal activities. People in more northern countries or cities are more likely to experience SAD than those who live close to the equator. Women are also up to 8 times more likely than men to experience SAD. If you suspect you may have SAD, don’t ignore the symptoms; talk to your doctor because only he/she can recommend the appropriate treatments.
Even for those of us that experience more moderate levels of moodiness, it helps to maximize our exposure to sunlight. Regular exercise and a healthy diet is a great place to start as well as good sleeping habits and being mindful of managing stress. Lastly, there are few things more important than maintaining healthy connections to our friends and family, which has been shown to help those experiencing mild changes in mood that follow a seasonal pattern.
To combat my own moodiness, I’ve recently started attending drop-in Zumba classes at Hart House on a weekly basis and am trying to stick to a healthier diet that doesn’t include a piece of cheesecake after every meal. The Multi-Faith Centre also offers basic meditation and yoga classes to help students re-balance and de-stress. And, if you feel like treating yourself after an especially stressful week, check out Massage Mondays at Hart House. After all, who doesn’t want a free massage?
The overall lesson here is that winter doesn’t have to get you down. If your energy is uncommonly low or you find you’re not your usual positive self don’t just “suck it up and carry on” – there are options available to bring some happiness into your winter so don’t be afraid to take advantage. It’s not called a ‘winter wonderland’ for nothing!