Seasonal Depression - What Is That?

5:27 PM It's the peak time of winter - it is really getting cold and the days seem so short and dark. We are missing light and some days are rather spent inside than outside. I guess that's normal and nothing to feel bad about. I believe everyone of us recognizes a certain mood change/ swift during the darker months and no one really knows why this is happening, or what is actually going on. 

Having too many experiences with depression and anxiety, I never focused much on my winter depression or sadness - I accepted it as a whole and not a special depression type. There were winters were I had a heavy seasonal depression and other times, I didn't really notice much... I thought it's normal to feel a bit low and sad during the colder months - it all made sense to me. 

Until I experienced my first seasonal depression during summer time. How can this happen? There's so much light, warmth, and so much to do - there's no way to feel depressed during that season.
But it happened. 
To me. 
I was not able to enjoy summer. I felt sad, I felt empty and I cried every day. I couldn't change a thing. I had no idea how and when this would end and I was not looking forward to fall and winter following up, giving me even more anxiety and bad days. 
This event really confused me. Is this normal? 

I started my research. 

Why the fuck can't we just enjoy winter time like summer time? I mean Christmas happens in between this season and it's the time to be jolly and smiling! Good food, great company, and so many great memories to create. But we can develop some serious issues during the darker months...Christmas isn't helping much here. 

Fact is that there is a term for this "happening" and this is nothing to feel ashamed of. Actually it is not as bad as we think it is. 
We are dealing with "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)" here. It's a mood disorder that happens especially during winter time, when people experience depressive symptoms like not having energy to do anything, craving for carbs which leads to overeating and weight gain, sleeping too much, and withdrawal from social interaction. 

SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he theorized that the reduction in available natural light during winter was the cause.

Seasonal mood variations are believed to be related to light! 

"The reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months may affect an individual’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Lower levels of serotonin have been shown to be linked to depression. Brain scans have shown that people who had seasonal depression in the winter had higher levels of a serotonin transporter protein that removed serotonin than in individuals who did not have seasonal depression. Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to seasonal depression. This hormone, which can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker, the production of this hormone increases. Melatonin can also affect an individual's circadian rhythm, or "biological clock", resulting in ‘internal clocks’ being out of sync with ‘external clocks’, or the usual sleep/wake rhythms."

Knowing about the cause or what is actually happening with us, what can we do to feel better then? 
One very successful method is light therapy. In light therapy, natural light is replicated with light boxes to mimic sunlight. Light therapy can be particularly helpful in regulating the release of melatonin, which increases when the sun goes down. When undergoing light therapy, you will spend a prescribed amount of time looking at the light box each day. 
Another idea would be exercise: Research consistently shows a strong exercise-mental health connection, particularly for those with depression and anxiety. That's why experts often refer to exercise as nature's antidepressant. Exercise can increase serotonin and endorphins, which both affect mood. Moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also a good idea to fight winter depression! Cognitive-behavioral therapy can actually be a more effective long-term treatment for SAD than light therapy. While more research is needed in this area, cognitive-behavioral therapy is clinically proven to be extremely beneficial for all types of depression.
Finding a perfect solution to work on this "problem" can take a little bit, but it's important to embrace a healthy lifestyle while combatting mood swings. Maintaining a regular schedule during the winter months can help keep your hormones in balance and regulate your mood — whether you suffer with the winter blues or SAD. This means setting a fixed sleep schedule to normalize your rhythm, structure your eating patterns and eat a balanced diet, connect with the ones you love, and take a lot of time for yourself to work on your well-being and do things that bring you joy,

Learning about SAD can be really life-changing!
I bet many of us go through the dark months each year, being confused why our bodies react so weird. And then comes a time, where we just accept it... This will pass some time...
I get that, but I want us to understand that there is a way out.

Life is too short to suffer like that during winter! I know that depression can take a lot from your life quality and I want us to see a light, even though it's dark as fuck outside.

I learned a lot about SAD and I appreciate this mood now even more than before. Winter time invites me to celebrate a massive spa and wellness festival. It's about keeping the body and mind healthy and react to the changes which happen with Mother Nature. It's the circle of life.
We don't accept the winter blues - we do something about it.

And this can be anything!
Light therapy or an entry into your diary. I sometimes buy myself the fanciest flowers during winter time which makes me feel like I enjoy spring time and then I take inspiration from the color and the smell! It's wonderful! 
Two years ago, I even went to South Africa during winter time to soak extra light and have a little escape from any kind of mood swing that would come my way.
I can definitely agree that the missing light is fucking heavy with my system! But I am learning to create routines and certain rituals which help me boost my mood and make me feel like this is the best time of the year.

And I'm not saying that I am healed yet. I'm not sure if SAD ever leaves...
I still experience days during December, where I cry and feel like I can't stop. I want to be alone and then I eat the weirdest stuff to feel "happy" again. I just can't control it fully.
But I'm willing to learn and test myself.

I don't know how you feel about SAD or if you are even affected.

If you feel very low and depressed during this colder season, I hope some of those tips here help you to understand yourself and how much we are connected to Mother Earth.

It's nothing to be ashamed of and nothing terrible to freak out about!
Take this as a chance to reconnect, get to know yourself, and give your body some extra love to make the best out of the dark days.
Yes, spring is almost here, too. Light will be back soon and winter sunshine also exists here and then - enjoy it when it's here.

Take every day as it is and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
You can do it!
Step by step!

If you have more questions about this topic, feel free to contact me and we can exchange!
*I'm not a doctor or psychologist, but I share my own experience here and I want you to see that there are actually so many people out there who suffer from the same things.