Does Your Mood Change with the Seasons?

Autumnal leaves. Red and yellow maple foliage against forestFall and winter bring cooler nights and darker mornings. Along with the temperature and light changes, many people are also dealing with back-to-school changes for themselves or their children. There are changes in schedules, routines, expectations, and even relationships.

Though many people consider spring to be a time of new beginnings, autumn is that for many people. It is a time of reflection on the summer and the year thus far, as well as a time of preparation for the winter and upcoming holidays. As we enter the harvest season, consider the physical, emotional, and relational ways you may be affected by this transition.

The impact of light and temperature on the human body is profound. We all need some level of light and warmth for our bodies to survive and thrive. Autumn, for some parts of the world, marks a change in both light and warmth as we approach colder and darker days.

Consider the ideal temperature and amount of light that you physically desire. Do you love the bright sun and hot weather? Or do you prefer cooler temperatures with less intense sunlight? Are you more active now than you were two months ago? Or are you struggling to be physically active? Whatever your preference, the change in season will affect you. Understanding and responding to your needs will help you prepare for whatever season is approaching.

Many people struggle with seasonal affective mood issues, commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a depression related to the change in seasons. For most, this begins in fall and continues through the winter months. It’s marked by moodiness, low energy, difficulty sleeping, a lack of interest in activities and relationships, feeling hopeless, and an overall sense of depression. Known more casually as “the winter blues,” SAD can have a significant impact on your mood and relationships. If you are more irritable, withdrawn, or moody during the winter months, the time to plan and prepare is now.

“Vanessa” called me at the beginning of August wanting therapy to plan for the winter. I was impressed that she was being so proactive. “I can’t do winter like that again,” she told me when I praised her. She wasn’t willing to experience another winter feeling as low as she did last year, so she wanted to do it differently this time.

To help you prepare for the upcoming season, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself sleeping more? Are you struggling to get out of bed?
  • Is it harder or easier to exercise now?
  • Do you feel less patient? Are you easily annoyed or irritated?
  • Do you feel more energized and productive?
  • Has there been a shift or change in any of your relationships in recent weeks?
  • Are you actively involved in your relationships?

Answering these questions could give you some insight about how the change in season may or may not be affecting you. Regardless of whether you are affected by SAD, there are three key points that will help you navigate and manage any seasonal changes.

  1. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Moving your body on a regular basis has far-reaching, positive effects on your physical and emotional health. You don’t need to train for a marathon. Walking around your neighborhood, doing push-ups, running around outside with children—these all have the same benefit.
  2. Get more light. Everyone needs to be exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. Since many jobs can be done indoors, this often takes effort. But the benefits are great, physically and emotionally. Our bodies absorb vitamin D, important to our health, from sunlight. And the energy and emotional boost that we get from a few minutes in the sun can be exceptional.
  3. Talk it out. All transitions have their challenges, and it’s always easier when you’re talking to someone about it. Whether you’re talking to a friend, coworker, or therapist, let someone into your inner thoughts and experiences.

What works best for you as you enter a new season? What tips or techniques do you have to share with others? Share your experiences with us. Let’s learn from each other!

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sidney

    Sidney

    September 25th, 2014 at 7:44 AM

    Oh goodness I am very seasonally motivated or not! Mine is kinda the opposite of what you normally see in that I am very motivated to get up and get moving with the cold weather and others love the sunshine a little more. I like the crispness even though I miss the daylight hours, but when people poo poo this phenomenon then I know that they are the ones who are really crazy because this is a reality for a whole lot of us.

  • Rena Worley

    Rena Worley

    September 25th, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Sidney, whatdo you mean by poo poo that phenomenon what do you mean by that? Do you mean,when people say there is no such thing as SAD? That is what I am hoping! I don’t think it matters what season you have these symptoms in, the fact remains you feel & experienxe them. They are real! TY ~Na :o|

  • dolly g

    dolly g

    September 25th, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Yes, and when it starts getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon that seems to put a damper on me that I can’t seem to shake until Daylight savings time kicks in again!

  • Rena

    Rena

    September 25th, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    *waves* Hi, YA! Last year, was an unusual bad Winter here in Louisiana! Not that we had extreme cold, which we did get below freezing several days in row, several times. IT Was, WE had NO Sun, I don’t remember one day the SUN was out all day. Cloudy, Dreary, Cold weather = Deep, Dark, Hopeless, Endless, Wasted Days of the horrible monster, I call Monster Gothic, I look back on last year, & what comes to mind is a hibernating bear. I slept as much as I could, waking only to eat, go to bathroom & then wanting sleep to find me again. I didn’t want to be awake because I was miserable. I wasn’t interested in anything, no energy, no motivation, just wanted to be left alone. Bidding my time till Spring, actually counting the days. Just wishing my Life away! And, that was with meds increased! I started worrying & getting anxious when I realized it was August 1, 2014! Dreading the months ahead, ~Rena :o|

  • Hal

    Hal

    September 26th, 2014 at 5:22 AM

    There are definitely times of the year when I am affected, but it just seems to vary. I get excited about summer and the prospect of going to the ebach, but then again I love the cooler weather of fall and being able to stay outside all day if I want to. It is very fluid for me, there is no one time or point where I am worse or better than the other.

  • Lori White

    Lori White

    September 26th, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    I would like to say that I suffer from Seasonal Depression or SAD. This past winter I joined a gym where they had tanning. Although I believe tanning too much can be dangerous, it was just the thing I needed to keep my body exposed to light and Vitamin D. It definitely had a positive affect on me, and I did NOT suffer with the Winter Blues this past winter. Just a suggestion.

  • Katie Cashin Therapy

    Katie Cashin Therapy

    September 26th, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    Great post that I wish more folks would read. Every one of my clients this week mentioned being abnormally exhausted. When I realized my own reserves felt tapped mid-week I went for some acupuncture. The acupuncturist attending to me shared that with the equinox our systems really do move into a different mode. So interesting! We do tend to focus on the power of the winter doldrums and skip over the effect this transitional season has on our mind and body.

  • Marjorie

    Marjorie

    September 27th, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    If u r like me and live n the SE then u should take a step outside this morn- there could be no better stress reliever than the beautiful weather this fall morn!!
    Dare I say that if everyday was like today is here, there would be no cases of SAD!

  • Collin

    Collin

    September 28th, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    I think that it is only natural that your moods ebb and flow a little with the seasons. It is only natural that there are those of us who seem to thrive in the light while there are others who like the darkness of winter.

    I guess that is why we are for the most part fortunate to live where there are actual changes in the seasons and sometimes it is the changes that can help you to be more appreciative of what we have when they are there.

  • VIC

    VIC

    September 29th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    My wife really does suffer from Seasonal Affective disorder, so much so that we have to anything that we can to keep as much light stimulation as we can during the winter months or she really will fall into a pretty substantial depression. Light therapy helps some, but you can also just tell a huge difference once the seasons begin to change again.

  • Tonya Ladipo

    Tonya Ladipo

    October 1st, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    The seasons do have an incredible impact on us. For some the winter is more difficult and the summer can be more challenging for others. It’s just important to know when you thrive and when you need more help. Vic, cleaning the windows at this time of year to let the light in can also be a boost for your wife. Just a thought . . .

  • Carolyn

    Carolyn

    October 2nd, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    Fall is my favorite time of the year. Being from Louisiana, we have so much heat and humidity. The crisp fall mornings get me moving.

  • helenh

    helenh

    December 29th, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    hi,

    I think the change in light really affects my sleep rhythm – when the mornings get lighter I will be up at 4 , and mentally I feel a lot weaker but I need to go to bed earlier , I don’t drink caffeine

  • Tonya Ladipo

    Tonya Ladipo

    January 1st, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    We’ve already passed the darkest day in the Northern Hempisphere so more morning light is coming your way Helenh!

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