Q: I hate this time of year, I'm a real summer person and I struggle with low mood and wanting to just hibernate all winter. what I can do to help my mood?
A: As summer slips into autumn, the days shorten and the temperature drops it can be harder to get out of bed, harder to be active and just, well generally harder. Seasonal shifts in mood and energy levels are pretty normal, and most people have a preferred season - personally, I prefer this time of year, I'm not big on the heat and autumn feels about right to me. Must be my Scottish ancestry.
But for some, normal seasonal swings can become more severe. We call it seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
More than 20 years ago (yes I'm old) I spent two years living in Anchorage, Alaska. The shortest day in Anchorage is a measly four hours of daylight, and of course in summer about 20 hours of daylight. It's these sorts of extremes that made the impacts of the seasons very obvious.
For about a month in winter, I worked night shifts, so I would see daylight on my weekend, then not at all for five days. That was hard, and I remember feeling not just low but actually quite disoriented and exhausted all the time.
I wish at the time I'd understood the importance of sunlight, vitamin D and melatonin for our mood and overall wellbeing because the number one intervention with SAD is to increase sunlight on your eyeballs in winter (and if necessary decrease it in summer - although that's less of an issue here than it is inside the Arctic Circle and it's blazing sun until 11pm).
Our brains have evolved to orient ourselves around daylight, and a natural day/night - or circadian - rhythm.
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Some people believe that the way we now artificially manipulate this through electric lights, and lengthening evenings has caused us harm - and may be behind many of the sleep problems modern humans face.
I'm not quite so alarmist, but what does seem to be true is that some people are more sensitive to seasonal changes - and therefore light levels - than others.
So my first piece of advice is to try and get outside, every morning, as soon as you can and get some daylight on your eyes and skin. This might be a morning walk, or just sitting outside for the length of time it takes to drink a cup of tea. If your schedule allows, leave your curtains open a touch, and let the rising sun wake you.
Secondly, really watch your light exposure at the other end of the day. Use dimmers or lamps to reduce the amount of light you're exposed to in the evenings. And the one big no-no is devices - tablets, phones with bright backlights - close to our eyes when we go to bed.
Bathrooms are the other one to watch - from a light perspective - as they tend to be very bright, and they also tend to be places we go right before bed. So turn the lights off, use a candle or other light source to keep it a bit less daytime-like.
And of course, get active. Even though it can be much less appealing, anything you can do to keep your body moving through winter is vital.
Because while we can't control the seasons, let alone the weather, like much of life we can control how we respond to what we can't control, and strive to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.