If you’ve been feeling a little lazy, unenergized, or down in the dumps the past week or so, it might have a little something to do with the time change last week.
When it gets dark earlier, it can zap energy and sink the mood of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The disorder affects about 5 percent of Americans. However, roughly 10 percent of the people in Northern states may be affected.
SAD symptoms include changes to sleep, mood, appetite, and energy. Cognition might also be affected, as can a loss of interest in activities.
The most effective treatment for SAD is light box therapy. It generally works by standing or sitting in front of a box with at least 10,000 lumens for 30-45 minutes per day upon waking. Spending time in natural sunlight, whether sitting by an open window for breakfast or getting out for a walk, may also help.
Regular exercise may help, too. Exercise is shown to boost energy levels, improve mood, and help with sleep. If you live close to nature, like a path, river, or woods, the effects on mood may be even greater. Bundle up and head out during the day a few times per week.
Sticking to a sleep/wake schedule may also help. Have a set bedtime, and be sure to get up when your morning alarm sounds. Immediately expose yourself to your light box or natural light to help you get up and start your day.
It may also be worthwhile to try and remember that this dark period is only temporary and that in a few months, the days will be getting longer, brighter, and warmer. Adopting a winter hobby – whether indoors or out – may help pass the time even faster.