It’s dark when I get home from work so no more afternoons in the garden. With the sun rising later as well, I tend to sleep longer so all I have time for each morning is a coffee and shower then it’s in the car and off to work. I know I have little to complain about but I already wish Winter was over and it hardly even begun yet.
OK. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Can you hear the violins playing?
This happens every Winter. I get an overwhelming desire to hibernate until the longer days return or to retire and become a full-time gardener or to move back to North Queensland where the days stay long and warm all year round. Eventually I will retire and do exactly that - but not for a few years yet.
Today, a workmate who just happens to be a psychologist and therefore qualified to diagnose such things, told me it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D. It is a recognised condition.
As seasons change, there is a shift in our 'biological internal clocks' or circadian rhythms, due partly to the changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of step with our daily schedules.
It is more common and more severe the further one lives from the Equator. I didn’t feel this way when I lived in North Queensland. I would be hopeless living in South Australia, North America or Europe.
The symptoms experienced are:
• extreme tiredness and lack of energy;
• the need for more sleep;
• difficulty waking up in the morning;
• increased appetite (particularly with a craving for carbohydrates);
• weight gain;
• loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed;
• difficulty concentrating;
• body aches, often with no apparent reason and
That’s me. I have all of those at the moment. I feel that way every Winter. In Spring I will spontaneously recover. I’ve always thought I just hated Winter and was a giant wimp.
Of course I am a giant wimp because compared to much of the world, our Winters are mild and I have little to complain about. I simply miss spending time in the garden after work each day.
Although it is not fully understood why shorter days can cause depression, it is thought a disruption in the body's biological clock changes the amount of melatonin (a hormone that has a role in sleep patterns and mood) and the amount of serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) produced by the body.
Apparently an effective form of treatment for SAD is bright light therapy. This involves being exposed to a bright light from a specially designed light box. Often as little as 30 minutes a day will produce a marked improvement in mood and general well-being after a few days.
As well as the conventional treatments for depression such as antidepressant medicines or counselling, increased exercise and spending as much time as possible out of doors will help those with a mild attack of SAD.
Self-help for SAD
Increase sunlight exposure (gardening)
Exercise - preferably outdoors (gardening)
Attention to diet (eat produce from the garden)
Move to to the Tropics!