For some, autumn is their favourite time of year, the much beloved season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. For many though it marks a slide into seasonal depression: SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As that is approaching, today we’re taking a look at the condition: the causes, and what you can do to mitigate the effects.
What Causes SAD?
Unfortunately, we don’t yet fully understand the causes of SAD, which means there’s no single easy solution to recommend.
At the moment, it seems likely that the decreased hours of sunlight affect your hippocampus, which in turns affects three keys things: the production of melatonin and a serotonin, hormones which affect your feelings of drowsiness and alertness, and your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that tells you when it’s time to wake and sleep.
For some this means feeling inescapably sleepy, and finding it hard to get up on cold, dark mornings. For others the condition can tip into clinically diagnosable depression.
Let’s take a look at some things that can help.
Maximising Daylight Time
While the hours of daylight have been shrinking since the summer solstice, won’t start to grow into the winter solstice, and won’t start to feel reassuringly long until March, you can still take advantage of what you have. Whether it’s simply eating lunch outside rather than at your desk, or taking long walks at the weekend, additional time outside in the daylight gives your hippocampus an additional dose of sun.
If you need to lend extra focus to your walk or freshen up a location that feels drab and overfamiliar, try a scavenger hunt. As the backdrop to a Treasure Trails treasure hunt, London, Bristol, Edinburgh and more all feel like new cities.
It might be worth investing in a special light for your bedroom to help you cope with the increased hours of darkness. SAD lamps recreate the specific frequencies of sunlight, stimulating your hippocampus and helping to regulate your circadian clock.
It’s important to make sure you choose a lamp that’s intended for treating SAD – check the packaging or website carefully. The best time to use it is in the morning when you first wake up, delivering a dose of bright light to stimulate your brain. You can get some that work as alarm clocks, waking you naturally with your own sunrise, giving you a much more positive start to the day than the usual dank October half light.