Dropping daylight saving time can compound the winter blues
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
Daylight saving time has ended and our clocks are officially back to normal. But something seems not-so-normal about the fall time change. Maybe our bodies grow accustomed to the long nights of summer, and in early November, at a time when the days are already naturally growing shorter, having that hour of evening daylight wrenched away from us seems cruel and unfair.
For a lot of people, the turn back to normal time can trigger the winter blues, or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “research in Ontario suggests that between two per cent and three per cent of the general population may have SAD,” and winter blues, a lesser form of SAD, likely affects 15 per cent of the population. The depression caused by SAD is similar to other forms of depression, and despite research, there is still no conclusive cause for SAD.
The prevailing theory around what causes SAD and winter blues is that it has to do with the lack of light in the winter months—it’s usually only light out for eight or nine hours, and if you’re a student or work indoors, you probably don’t spend too much of that time in actual sunlight.
Save moving to Mexico, there’s not much we can do about the lack of light caused by winter. But one thing we can do is harness the power of the artificial light—that thing that got us into this mess to begin with—by purchasing a light box, which replicates the light of the sun. Sitting in front of one for 30 minutes a day is meant to alleviate SAD symptoms. Since they range in price from expensive to even more expensive, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor for a recommendation, or do plenty of research.
A less pricey way to beat the winter blues is through your diet. Depression and moodiness can be caused by low blood sugar. Avoid blood sugar dips by eating lots of small meals, or wholesome snacks like fruit. Depression can cause you to crave carbohydrates, especially when you hit that afternoon wall. In this case, listen to your body: it’s telling you that it wants food that will boost its serotonin (happy hormone). Have some low-fat starchy snacks like pretzels or popcorn on hand to avoid a vending machine candy bar binge.
Vitamins are another way to boost your mood when the weather gets you bummed. A lack of B1, which is found in legumes, milk, and seeds, can cause fatigue and depression. It’s also important to get enough Omega-3 fatty acids, which are easy to get in a fish oil supplement. If you like sardines, you’re in luck, because a few cans of those per week should get you enough of this important mental health helper. And finally, vitamin D, found in salmon, sardines, and other oily fish, is best absorbed directly through the skin from the sun. If you have any time during the day, try to sit in the sun for a bit—your winter blues will thank you—and if not, getting some milk in your diet will be effective, as well.
If you think you have SAD or the winter blues, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about it. Make an appointment with your general practitioner, if you have one—they can help you determine if you’re at risk for SAD, and advise on any supplements you might want to take. The CMHA website (www.cmha.ca) can also help you find information on resources. And finally, our very own counsellors at Douglas College can support you by offering both personal and school related counselling.