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Seasonal Affective Disorder

Same time, every year. It happens in climates where there’s less sunlight at certain times of year, like where we live.

Maddie Baggett spoke with an expert who gave us some tips and tricks to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

December is often a joyous time of year. It’s the time where we can get together with the people we love celebrate the new year.

However, it’s also a time where a lot of us start to feel a little sad.

Living in the Northeast, we have the privilege and sometimes disadvantage of experiencing all four seasons and their extremes.

While the cooler air may be a relief to some, the most intense and ruthless season is winter. Clear signs of winter include frigid temperatures, changing scenery and shorter days.

While it may not be so clear is how those shorter days and less exposure to sunlight can impact our mental health. I sat down with licensed psychologist Dr. Mary Berge to break down the science of SAD.

“Seasonal affective disorder is what we commonly referred to as sad, and it’s a type of clinical depression that affects people during the winter months. In the month of December,
Central PA experiences about one third of the sunlight we get in July,”

According to Dr. Berge. Lack of sunlight is one of the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder and can actually cause an imbalance in the chemicals our brain naturally produces.

“When you don’t get enough sunlight, your brain actually starts to produce too much melatonin and not enough of your feel good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. And that chemical imbalance can lead to a seasonal affective disorder. Dr. Berg mentioned a few techniques and tools we could all use to prevent those wintertime blues.

Hugging people actually increases our feel good chemicals in our system. Also smiling, and when we smile, the better we feel. In addition to physical methods, 30 minutes of light box therapy every day has also been proven to increase serotonin levels during the colder months.”

So as we start to head into the thick of winter, don’t forget to always make time for yourself and remember to smile.

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