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The leaves on the trees are not the only things that change during the autumn. Your moods could, too. Science has discovered that a feeling of blueness or sadness is a real effect of the changing of the seasons, especially during the transition of autumn into winter. Seasonal mood shifts change different people in different ways, but some common effects include having less energy, feeling less interested in socializing or engaging in favorite activities, wanting to eat more carbohydrates or comfort foods and experiencing changes in sleep patterns. Understanding how changes in seasons impact your mood allows you to take action and seek help if you need it.

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The Biggest Seasonal Variable on Your Mood

While a lot of people complain about the cold air during the transition of spring into summer or autumn into winter, science shows that it’s something else affecting your mood.

The biggest seasonal variable on your mood is daylight.

The length of the day has the biggest impact on how you feel.

Day Length Impacts Hormones

The longest day of the year is the summer solstice. As summer turns into autumn, the sunrise is later. The sun sets earlier each day until the autumn equinox. This pattern continues until the winter solstice, which is the shortest period of daylight. The duration of daylight impacts your hormones.

It has a considerable role in regulating your serotonin.

This hormone is one of many that are responsible for your mood and sense of well-being.

Daylight and Its Effects on Sleep

Serotonin levels also impact melatonin. This is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, and your body naturally produces it close to bedtime. However, the length of daylight has a big impact on your body’s natural rhythm. This is called your circadian rhythm. It is set by your exposure to daylight. The shorter daylight in the late autumn and winter disrupts your circadian rhythm.

Your body may release melatonin earlier in the day.

This results in you either feeling very sleepy for much of the day or being unable to sleep at night. When you don’t sleep well, your mood suffers. Poor sleep and insufficient sleep are directly related to your mood, energy level and sense of well-being. Your serotonin levels can also drop, causing you to feel less happy.

How to Combat a Sad Mood

As the calendar turns to autumn and then winter, you can be proactive in fending off a sad mood. Open the blinds or curtains so the sunlight can enter your living space. Go outside for a walk in the morning.

The sunlight and exercise work together to boost your serotonin level and improve your mood. Choose healthy foods.

Although the pumpkin pie and holiday fudge taste and smell delicious, the blood sugar drop a short time after eating them will deplete your mood. Instead, choose lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of seasonal fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Focus on water for hydration, and avoid alcohol or excessive caffeine intake.

Mild Mood Changes Versus Depression

Sometimes, a sad mood is more than just a mood. It can turn into depression. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression. Some people are more likely to experience it in the late autumn and winter months. Call your doctor if your sadness persists for more than two weeks.

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