The first snowfall of the year; a cup of hot cocoa after building a snowman; ice skating on a frozen pond – The Winter season, especially if you live in the north, is full of unique experiences waiting to be enjoyed. However, have you noticed that you feel worse in the Fall and Winter months? Do you feel blue after several cloudy days in a row? If so, you’re not alone. As the days get shorter, many people experience some of the following signs of insufficient light:
- Lack of energy
- Desire to sleep a lot
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
- Impatience with yourself and others
- Cravings for sweets and junk food
- Difficulty being creative
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing your attention
- Decreased productivity
If you are able to check off several of the above mentioned signs, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as SAD. It is more common for people who live in the north (or in the southern regions of the southern hemisphere) to have SAD, than those who live closer to the equator. With the days being much shorter during the winter months, you may get up and go to school or work in the dark and then come home again after the sun has already set. Some days you may not get any beneficial daylight at all – It has been found that exposure to sunlight through the eyes helps some people feel much better.
If you think that you may have SAD, discuss it with your physician. While many people have successfully treated themselves, a healthcare provider with expertise in addressing Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a big help and a great supporter as you address this difficult issue. If your regular doctor does not know very much about SAD, ask him or her to refer you to a doctor who does.
The following are some examples of light- or SAD-related Wellness Tools:
- Spend at least half an hour outside each day, even on cloudy days
- Spend time outside during your lunch break
- Gaze at the sky without looking directly at the sun
- Spend time outdoors without wearing my sunglasses
- Keep my indoor space well-lit, letting in as much light as possible
- Have plenty of lights on in the house
- Replace fluorescent bulbs with full-spectrum bulbs
- Use my light box for 30 minutes
- Purchase a light treatment app for my phone & use it each morning
Read more on Beating the Winter Blues in WRAP for Life
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.