Dealing with a lack of sunlight
Seasonal depression, winter blues, seasonal affective disorder. Many expressions are used to describe the result of a yearly phenomenon no one in Quebec can avoid: low light levels in winter, which are up to 50 times lower than in summer. Let’s look at an overview of this illness that has crept into Quebec and some ways to get around it.
WHAT IS IT?
Winter depression, caused by the lack of sunlight (technically, we get 100,000 lux of sunlight on summer days and 2,000 lux in wintertime), is characterized by a lack of energy and depression. In Canada, women are most affected by these short days with little sun, whereas teenagers and children are the least affected by this phenomenon.
Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, a pioneer of light therapy, discovered that light plays a major role on the internal biological clock controlling several essential body functions, such as sleep-wake patterns and the secretion of such hormones as serotonin (known as the happy hormone) and melatonin (normally secreted only at night and which manages sleep patterns). Clearly, any resulting hormonal imbalance could be puzzling for the body and mind.
HOW TO AVOID IT?
When it comes to seasonal depression, the phrase “Better safe than sorry” makes perfect sense. There are several simple actions that can give us more energy and put us in a better mood during the months when sunlight is lowest.
- Go outside for at least one hour a day, or even longer on grey days. This is especially important in winter.
- Say goodbye to heavy curtains: Allowing as much daylight as possible into your home or your workplace is very beneficial. If your windows are small, placing a few mirrors in the room to reflect the sunlight may be a good option.
- Physical exercise is always very good. Practising outdoor sports in the daylight (e.g., brisk walking, snowshoeing, downhill or cross-country skiing and ice skating) may also help fight seasonal depression.
- Relaxation: Taking a moment to relax as often as possible is an excellent way to fight depression all year long. It is also a good way to spend some time outside, in the daylight.
- If the above-mentioned activities are either impossible or inadequate, we recommend light therapy, which consists in daily sessions of 30 minutes exposure to a 10,000-lux intensity light.
With these tips, seasonal depression will soon be nothing more than a bad memory. Have a great winter!