So how does light affect our mood? If you’ve ever wondered to yourself why you’re a bit less happy in the winter, then read on …
What is it about sunshine? The minute the sun comes out and stays out for a few days, everyone seems to ‘perk up’ a bit. Summer’s here at last. No more moaning about the cold, damp weather, the persistent rain and overall glumness. Granted there are some who moan about the weather being too hot when we get the sort of temperatures that we’ve been enjoying these past few weeks. I’m actually one of those people, but I put it down to my freckly, fair skin. It doesn’t help being on the wrong side of the menopause either. When, oh when will these hot flushes stop?!
Once Christmas is done and dusted, Mr 50 Plus can’t wait for the weather to even vaguely resemble the summer. He says he loves the feeling of warmth on his skin but I know for a fact that his Mum has SAD and I do sometimes wonder whether he’s been afflicted by it too. My Dad always seemed to be happier in the Spring and Summer than in the Autumn and Winter and my Mum always attributed that to SAD.
What Is SAD?
So what is SAD? Well SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder and is a kind of depression which follows the seasons. It’s not a well understood condition but it is without a doubt linked to the sunshine.
Short, grey winter days mean that we don’t have the same level of exposure to sunlight. Whereas in the summer, we have longer, brighter days and generally have a bit more sunshine in our lives. Scientists believe that the hypothalamus in our brain doesn’t work efficiently when we have a lack of sunlight. This in turn affects the production of serotonin and melatonin. Our bodies rely on sunlight for our internal body clock. So when our circadian rhythm is disrupted in the long winter nights, it’s hardly surprising that so many people suffer from SAD.
How Does Light Affect Our Mood?
Light has a huge impact on our lives and lack of light can have a detrimental effect on our bodies and minds. Exposure to sunlight and light in general can lift a mood and lessen the symptoms of depression. Light in the home can affect your mental health in a positive way so introducing more light into the main living area is a good place to start.
My parents put a conservatory on their house because my Dad wanted to be able to enjoy winter sunshine whenever he could. Glass roofs on single storey extensions are a brilliant way to introduce more light into your home. Light therapy is another common treatment as is exercise.
If things are really rough for you then obviously seeing your GP should be a priority. They may suggest one of the talking therapies such as CBT or may even prescribe antidepressants. The NHS website has a useful section on treatments for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is well worth a look if you feel you are suffering from it.
In the meantime, however, get yourself outside and enjoy the sunshine. I’m not being a doom-monger but believe me, it’s not going to last!