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How Shorter Days Affect How We Feel

Man sitting outside on a bench dressed in fall clothing listening to music

How do shorter days affect how we feel? As the season shifts and days become shorter, many feel more tired and less energetic. It’s not just in our head; there’s a reason for it.

How the Sunshine Affects How We Feel

The sun does a lot for us. It not only lights up our day, but it also plays a big part in how we feel. Sunlight boosts our body, helping us produce vitamin D and strengthening our bones. It also helps keep our body’s internal clock on the right track. This internal clock helps us know when to be awake and sleep. When there’s less sunlight, our internal clock can get confused, making us feel more tired or even a bit gloomy. 

The Winter Blues

There is a name for feeling down during the colder months with shorter days, called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It means some people feel sleepy, sad, or not in the mood for things they usually like when there’s less sunlight. It’s like winter, giving us a case of the blues. 

I can attest to this as someone who does suffer from SAD. I tend to become more tired and usually get ready for bed between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. I have no genuine interest in leaving home except for work, and that is because it’s a necessity. 

Tips for Coping with SAD

  • Special Lights: You might have seen or heard about light boxes. These boxes shine bright and can help trick our brains into thinking there’s more sunlight. Another way to get sunlight inside is to open your blinds and sit closer to a bright window. 
  • Stay Active: When we move, our body feels good. Play a sport, put your favorite tunes on and dance, or find some exercises. Many workout videos are found online for free. (Make sure you always consult your doctor before working out). 
  • Go Outside: Try going for a walk, having a picnic in the park, or just sitting and enjoying the sunlight on a bench. Being outdoors can boost your mood, even if it’s chilly or overcast. 
  • Stay on Schedule: Even if you want to hibernate like a bear, try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. It will help. 
  • Reach Out: If the blues don’t go away, it’s okay to ask for help. Talk about your feelings with a friend or family member. There are a lot of counselors out there to help both in person and online as well. 

The great thing about seasons is they change. Even if the days are short and cold now, longer and warmer days will return. Until then, remember to care for your feelings and know that you are not alone. Together, we can shine brightly, even on the shortest days. 

Let’s Share and Support

We all have our ways of cheering up during the short days. Do you have a particular song that lifts your spirits? Or a cozy routine that warms you up. The CompassOhio Team would love you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below. It’s nice when we can learn from each other and support one another. 

Resource for more information, symptoms and ways to cope visit John Hopkins article, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For your next read: Connecting with Nature Can Improve Your Mental Health.

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