The weather can bring you down.
I dealt with many blistering cold days in my home province of Alberta—days with the kind of wind that numbs your skin instantly and freezes your eyebrow hairs into two icy little worms.
The thought of moving to beautiful Vancouver Island for university was highly appealing to me. Specifically, it was a place not covered in snow for eight months of the year and had more than two weeks of fall.
Don’t get me wrong, the island is appealing. Plentiful greenery, no preheating your car in the mornings before driving to school or work, minimal worrying about skidding into the middle of an icy intersection—these are all things I love about living here.
However, one thing I had not anticipated was the persistent rain and its impact on my mood.
Despite the cold and crappy winters of Alberta, the province tends to have abundant sunshine year-round. Even on the coldest and gloomiest days, the sun still peeks out from the sky. But the sun can hide for days or even weeks at a time on Vancouver Island during the fall and winter.
I have always found my mood to be lower this time of year. How could I not be? The excitement of summer seems so far away in the fall, the days are shorter, and school tends to be stressful.
I noticed my Eeyore-like attitude was even stronger once I moved out to the West Coast, with fluctuations in my mood seemingly tied to the current weather.
The connection between rainy weather and depressive-like symptoms isn’t a new discovery. There are multiple studies that help to support the correlation, for example research by Rind (2006) in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that people tipped servers less on gloomy days compared to sunnier days.
There is also an entire disorder characterized by depression in relation to seasons called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
I’m not saying that I have SAD, or that you should self diagnose yourself with it, but for some people, extended periods of time with minimal sunlight impacts their mood negatively.
If, like myself, you’re feeling consistently down this time of year, here are a few things you can do that might help to brighten your mood:
- Ensure you have a morning and night routine. It may help to keep your sleep patterns more regular.
- Set aside time to spend with friends or family. Quality social support can play a role in reduced feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to SAD. Vitamin D supplements may help to alleviate negative mood symptoms, however, research is limited.
- Try a light therapy lamp. They have shown promise in increasing mood and energy during fall and winter seasons for some individuals, although more research is required regarding its effectiveness.
One tip I have found to be incredibly helpful for myself is making sure I go outside at some point in the morning. Try your best to see the sun, take a ten-minute walk and breathe in the fresh air. Not only may this help improve your mood, it can also increase your energy for the day and help to regulate your circadian clock.
These tips may help you to feel a little less sad this time of year. However, if you start to feel down for multiple days at a time, are less motivated to do activities you previously enjoyed, or notice a change in your appetite or sleep cycle, it is a good idea to contact a counsellor or a doctor. They have the best tools to help you.