Does Mental Health Get Worse in the Winter?

Does Mental Health Get Worse in the Winter?

Does Mental Health Get Worse in the Winter?



Winter is all about snow, blustery winds, and plunging temperatures. During winter, most people spend their time indoors, away from their normal activities. This “hibernation” can increase the risk of depression. With everything going on with the weather, it is easy to overlook what goes on in the mind.



Winter and Mental Health



Studies have shown that extreme weather conditions can have a negative effect on mental health. The shorter days and lack of sunshine mean that the body produces more melatonin and less serotonin. 


The result is that the neurotransmitter associated with emotions of happiness is reduced. On the other hand, the chemical responsible for sleepiness and depression increases. It is important to be aware of how winter weather affects mental health in order to be proactive.



Seasonal Affective Disorder



Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a condition resulting from changes in seasons. It is a type of depression where symptoms begin and end at around the same time each year. It usually occurs from November to March, the months associated with winter. 


The condition affects more than half a million people. Symptoms of SAD can be similar to clinical depression. They include sadness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, social withdrawal, and failure to concentrate. The exact cause of SAD is not known, but most experts believe that certain hormones play a role.



Staying Connected



Loneliness is a huge factor when it comes to depression and overall mental health. One of the easiest ways to protect mental health is by remaining connected with friends and family. This will help ward off the loneliness that can trigger depression. 


Failing to find enjoyment in daily activities and skipping work or school can be signs of depression. It is vital to seek professional help if you notice the changes. 



Diet and Exercise 



Eating a healthy diet and exercising every day can improve mental health. Many people stop working out during winter, leading to health problems. Poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to several health issues. 


Many people tend to eat unhealthy foods during the winter season. Foods that many consider “comfort food” also tend to be unhealthy. Changes in appetite or weight can be a symptom of mental health problems. 



Getting Some Sunlight 



Sunlight may be in short supply during winter, but you need to get as much of it as you can. Go outside or open a window to let in sunlight. This will increase the body’s levels of serotonin, which helps balance the mood. 


Sunlight will also make the room brighter and cheerier, giving a positive effect on the mood. This is the theory behind light therapy. Remember, there is usually some sunlight, even when there is cloud cover. 


Getting plenty of rest during the winter season can help. Sleep at least seven or eight hours each night. This will help keep the mind and body working efficiently. When it comes to body and mind regulation, consistent sleep is the best form of sleep. If you experience extreme changes in appetite, sleep patterns, energy level, or mood, make sure that you visit a doctor. 


For more on mental health in winter, visit Stronger Together Community Services at our office in San Diego, California. You can call (858) 434-8100 today to schedule an appointment.

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