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My Mental Health is Tied to the Seasons

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Every year at about this time, I realize that I am much happier during the summer. It could be all the fun things to do, or that I actually have the energy to do them. Or, it could be that I am finally getting out in the sun.

Some of my worst depressive episodes have taken place in January of various years, dating back to when I was a teenager. Many people with Major Depressive Disorder have worsening symptoms during the winter. Also, others have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SADD).

According to Greater Good Berkley,

Wintertime blues are common, but about 10 million Americans are affected every year by a longer-lasting depression called seasonal affective disorder. Along with low mood, symptoms include anxious feelings, low self-esteem, longer sleep duration, constant craving for carbohydrates, and low physical activity levels.

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be combatted through additional exposure to sunlight, and that is why so many people feel sad during the winter months when the weather isn't as warm.

Benefits of Sunlight

When it's the summer, we are better able to spend time outside, and get all the benefits of sunlight for our bodies.

According to Select Health, here are 7 benefits of sunlight:

  1. Improves your sleep

  2. Reduces stress

  3. Maintains strong bones

  4. Helps keep the weight off

  5. Strengthens your immune system

  6. Fights off depression

  7. Can give you a longer life

With all of these benefits of sunlight, it is no wonder that we feel happier and healthier during the summer months.

Personally, I have wondered for a long time if I should move closer to the Equator so that I can live in a warmer climate and get more sunshine all year long. But, what if you can't do that? Are there ways to get more sunlight all year long, so that you don't feel the effects of seasonal depression so much?

One way to do this is to get a SAD light, which simulates the rays of the sun by putting off UV light. This type of light can help to alleviate some of your seasonal depression symptoms.

Also, you can take Vitamin D as a supplement. This is another health benefit that you get from the sun, so taking this vitamin can have some added benefits too.

It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building bone. Also, laboratory studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation.

These benefits show that the Vitamin D that comes from the sun is important for us to have all year round, not just in the summer time.

Make time for self-care

When you have a depressive episode, or if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is important to make sure that you take additional time for self-care. There are many different forms of self-care, but make sure that you are taking at least a few minutes a day to do something good for yourself.

This can include:

  • Yoga, mindfulness and meditation

  • Journaling

  • Exercising

  • Practicing Gratitude

  • Taking outdoor walks

  • Taking a hot bath or shower

  • Calling a friend

  • Going to therapy

  • Lighting candles

  • Reading a good book

  • Watching a favorite show

Any of these things, or something else that you enjoy, can be a good way for you to unwind and make sure that you are prioritizing your physical and mental health.

During the summer months

When there is good weather outside, it is great to spend as much time outside as possible. This way, you will be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of the additional sunlight as much as possible.

If you are anything like me, you probably have better mental health in the summer as well. This can be a good time to start new projects, or begin a new habit that you want to incorporate into your routine. You probably have added energy, so starting something new will be less difficult during this time.

You can also do some journaling about the way that you feel while you are feeling positive, or take some pictures of your fun activities. This way, you will have some good memories to look back on when you are feeling down during the winter months.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer, and is able to enjoy the additional sunlight this time of year always brings!

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