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How Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting your mood

How Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting your mood

Fab Giovanetti

Blue Monday is back today. In case you do not know, Blue Monday is the term given to the one day of the year when people are supposedly the most miserable, and it falls in January.

The day also falls around a period where many people find themselves suffering from the seasonal affective disorder. That feeling of sluggishness, lack of motivation you may be experiencing right now?

As suggested by the name, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of depression related to changes in seasons.

“Precisely, this type of disorder occurs because of the decreased exposure to sunlight during the autumn and winter seasons,” explains Dr Verena Senn.“The most common symptoms are sadness, overeating, having a lower sex drive, and working less effectively. It is essential to highlight that these symptoms should last a minimum of 2 months to be diagnosed with SAD. Importantly, individuals affected by SAD are almost depressed-free when there is more sunlight.”

Another element that it is important to note is that SAD is not so common. For example, with around 329 million citizens in the USA, only 500 thousand have been diagnosed with SAD.

“On the other hand, 25% of the general population is affected by a comparable seasonal disorder in which clinical depression is absent”, Dr Senn reminds us.

According to researchers, people with SAD could generate too much melatonin (or are hypersensitive to average quantities of this hormone) and, on the other hand, do not produce enough serotonin.

“This unbalanced production can justify why SAD patients sleep more than usual, have difficulty getting out of bed, and why they may still feel tired throughout the day.”

A simple addition to our desk like a SAD light can do wonders when working days are short, and motivation is running low.

What is Blue Monday anyway?

Let’s get back to Blue Monday just for one minute. It is more than just a hashtag – it’s the result of an actual formula.

More than a decade ago, psychologist and life coach Dr Cliff Arnall coined the term Blue Monday through a formula that considers variables such as weather conditions, debt, the end of Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions, and general low motivation levels.

Arnall has since confessed that the formula is essentially pseudoscience and has urged Brits to “refute the whole notion” of Blue Monday. You could say that this is total BS (even Arnall admits it). However, it still taps into the idea that many people struggle with finding ways to motivate themselves throughout winter.

Whether embarking on a new career, meeting new friends, taking up a new hobby, January can be a great time to make those big decisions for the year ahead.

Yet, there is some truth that winter (and January especially) can be challenging for so many people. Does this mean we are going to drag our way through winter, eagerly waiting for spring to come by? Not necessarily.

The power of reframing

I used to have a complicated relationship with Mondays. I am not overly proud to say that I lived a 24/7 working life as a journalist at University.

When I used to do shift work, weekends were not a thing, so Mondays were another day. When I got a full-time job in marketing over eight years ago, I had little time to write.

That meant I would spend Saturdays and Sundays working on articles. When I started my own business, Monday became a reminder I did not have a weekend off since (insert number of weekends).

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Should we be upset with Mondays? Or Sundays? Or maybe the poor Fridays? As cheesy as it sounds, only we can control how we tackle the day and the kind of associations we carry.

Mondays (including Blue Monday) could be the reset button we need to get one step closer to one single goal. Similarly, winter can be a great time to pause and reflect on how you want to show up for the year ahead.

There are 52 Mondays, and most of us will experience 50 or more Winters in our lives. The way we work with the seasons (including our ‘internal seasons’) is crucial for showing up in business and life.

Embrace your inner winter

The current climate has also been affecting our mental well-being. This year more than ever, it’s crucial to create your wellness toolkit to equip you to tackle January the right way for you.

“Embrace rather than resist winter – go for comfort, afternoon ‘hibernation’ naps, slow-cooked meals, light candles and make the home cosy, plant bulbs for spring, read and catch up on boxsets and use the time to restore and nourish”, reminds us Carole Ann Rice, life coach at The Real Coaching Co .

Small habit switches can also do wonders, Rice adds. The earlier you can go out each morning for a walk in daylight helps lift mood and aid sleep. “Try using a lightbox proven to help feelings of SAD, but an early morning walk in daylight equally lifts the spirit and raises the vitamin D levels”.

For so many people, finding this time of the year is an ongoing challenge. Risking to sound corny here, but every day is an opportunity to do what we did not do before. It is also why we encourage our members to set new goals (with us live) every week in the Creative Impact Collective.

Remember, each day is a day that you have never seen. It is a day to do something great. It is a day to tackle with awe and curiosity for what’s next.

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