If you find yourself feeling jolly in the summertime and depressed in the winter, this is way more normal and common than you might think! Considering the length of daylight, temperature, lifestyle changes and sun exposure, our state of mind and emotions can be triggered through the months. But how do the seasons affect us and why does this happen?
Seasonal affective disorder
SAD (seasonal affective disorder), is a form of depression which comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. The side effects of SAD are usually recognised through the colder months but can still occur in summer. The symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of ordinary depression but tend to occur at a particular time of year, usually during the winter season. Common side effects of SAD may include low moods, loss of interest, irritability, low self-confidence, anxiety, low energy levels and low concentration. Many researchers suggest that this condition is a response to limited light exposure and a drop in serotonin (the happiness neurotransmitter in the body).
Side effects of seasonal changes
Although seasonal changes can affect everyone in different ways, there are some common ways in which the shift in temperature, light and weather conditions can affect a person’s mood.
It can be rather difficult to hop out of bed and begin your day during the winter months. Not only is your room cold and dark, but melatonin levels are increased and serotonin is decreased, leaving you feeling lethargic and less motivated. Similarly, during the winter months, UV levels from the sun are much lower and restrict you from natural vitamin D exposure. Vitamin D is directly linked to energy levels, so without a decent amount of sunlight, your body will become fatigued and less energised throughout the day.
This is why during the summer months, you might find yourself a lot more active and lively as you’ll be exposed to longer, sunnier days! Most people generally get out more during these months so naturally, your body is getting the vitamins and mobility it needs to keep energy and mood levels high!
Emotional mood swings
Being affected emotionally throughout the seasons is extremely common and comes down to a number of things. Many people get down due to the fact they’re not outside as much and there’s limited sunlight, whilst some thrive off cosy winter evenings and despise hot temperatures. Although many factors could be personal preferences, suffering from SAD is also common. With serotonin levels being so low, people might not have the energy to exercise, could be eating a poor diet, not socialising enough and leave themselves feeling low and depressed.
When the temperatures rise, our bodies require fewer calories to maintain our optimal body temperature whereas when it’s cold, we need more calories to maintain that level. This is why during the summer, many people opt for fresh fruits, lighter meals and foods with high water content. These cravings are also down to the environment we’re living in. For example in the summer, more fruit and vegetables will be in season, and during the Christmas period, chocolates, treats and snacks will be out on the shelves! There is a clear link between mood and food, so depending on what you’re feeding your body, this will reflect through your daily attitude, energy levels and emotions.
Your circadian rhythm is the internal timekeeper that runs your brain and monitors the changes in the length of daytime. This clock not only tells you when to wake up and when you’re tired but also plays a role in metabolism, temperature regulation, hormones and mood. Your circadian rhythm can also be affected by electrical lights, technology and artificial lighting, blurring the lines between daytime and nighttime and confusing your circadian clock. Improving your sleep quality and sleep quantity will help to boost moods and maintain energy during the day.
How to regulate your mood through seasonal changes
If you’re finding your mood changing rapidly depending on the seasons, weather or environment, there are a number of ways to regulate it and keep your emotions and mood at a steady level.
- Adjust your sleep routine
- Structure your eating and maintain a balanced diet
- Stay active with physical activity
- Make time for socialising
- Try out a new hobby or interest
- Prepare for the upcoming weather conditions
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