It’s that time of year again – the days are beginning to get shorter; the weather is gettingcolder; and it’s becoming increasingly easy to want to isolate indoors. These increased feelingsof sadness, fatigue, lack of motivation, and negative mental health are common around this time of year. Milder symptoms are often referred to as the ‘winter blues,’ whereas more severesymptoms may indicate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression.
According to the Canadian Association of Mental Health the most significant symptom of
SAD is a sad, despairing mood that is present most days, lasts more than two weeks, and impairs
the person’s work and personal life. Other symptoms may include:
- Changes in appetite/ weight
- Sleep problems
- Agitation or irritability
- Trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Feeling useless, hopeless, pessimistic
- Low self esteem
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies, people, or sex
One of the biggest triggers for SAD is the change in amount of sunlight we receive in the winter. Did you know SAD is much more common in those far North or south of the equator as those countries tend to experience less sunlight throughout the year. Reduced sunlight can affect our hormones such as serotonin, a “happy” hormone.
Hormones are chemicals produced in our body that are carried through our blood stream. They act as messengers by regulating everything from our physical functions to our emotional well-being. Hormones have a significant influence on our thoughts and emotional regulation, thus by understanding how they work we can create specific strategies to trigger emotions such as happiness.
There are four hormones science has found that relate to happiness and boost positive feelings,
also known as “happy hormones”
1. Dopamine – this hormone and neurotransmitter is the primary driver of the brain’s reward system. It is produced when we experience something pleasurable.
To stimulate dopamine:
o Listen to upbeat music
o Eat a sweet treat
o Get a good night’s sleep
o Complete a small task
2. Serotonin – this hormone and neurotransmitter helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory. Serotonin plays a significant role in reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
To stimulate serotonin:
o Get some sunshine
o Go for a walk
o To some cardio
o Practice meditation
3. Oxytocin— this hormone is known for its role in attachment and bonding in relationships and can promote feelings of trust and empathy. It is commonly referred to as the “love” hormone.
To stimulate oxytocin:
o Give someone a hug
o Pet your cat/ dog
o Cook for a loved one
o Hold hands
4. Endorphins— this hormone is the body’s natural pain reliever; it is produced in response to stress by minimizing discomfort and maximizing pleasure.
To stimulate endorphins:
o Do some exercise
o Burn essential oils
o Eat dark chocolate
o Watch something funny
By being proactive and making a plan to incorporate a few of these activities into your weekly schedule can help reduce the low feelings associated with this time of year. If you find you need extra support, reach out to us here at Integra and we are happy to help you fight that winter blues.