Does The Weather Affect Our Mood?

Temperatures become frigid, sunset is near 5 p.m. and the skies look grey. It's one thing to feel down about the season change.

But, winter weather can bring on the winter blues. It's more than just being in a "funk." When this mood shift hinders your ability to enjoy life, it could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

We spoke with Dr. Blake Hansen, a family physician with Northwest Medical Center, to learn more about how a seasonal change could affect our wellbeing.

"This is recurrent depressive episodes that start to have that seasonal pattern. Fall and winter are the most common times that it starts to pop up," said Dr. Hansen.

The shift into winter depression is caused by a disruption of your circadian rhythm. This is our biological clock. The decrease in sunlight during the winter confuses our bodies. It affects the happiness chemical, serotonin, in our brains.

Dr. Hansen explained, "And these days are shorter, so you're not getting the serotonin response you were getting previously. The brain is going to be most affected because that serotonin now is not as prevalent."

Seasonal affective disorder is more common the further north in latitude you live because of less sunlight. About 10 to 20 percent of people have mild symptoms of it.

"Most commonly they are saying they don't find enjoyment they were previously enjoying. Or sad, down, cranky," stated Dr. Hansen, "I mean treatment for it is light therapy, getting light exposure. There's medical directed light therapy, along with medicine, and counseling that can help patients with this."

One way to get light exposure is to use a light box. You sit in front of it for a certain amount of time to mimic sunlight.

"Patients should be aware and try to look for these things. But, again, getting out, exercising, even 30 minutes a day, really working on a sleep routine, having good sleep hygiene is going to be the best management for this," said Dr. Hansen.

Covering weather where you live, I'm 5NEWS Meteorologist Sabrina Bates.

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