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Feeling SAD? Philip Duncan says winter depression is common

Spring 2012 is spreading across New Zealand and you can’t help but get that spring in your step – even if some of us may be still feeling the winter blues.

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is the depression we suffer during the dark months of winter. Lack of light can actually make us depressed.

Although SAD tends to be more of an issue in places that have very limited sunlight hours in winter, like Scotland, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Alaska and Russia, there is no doubt this legitimate disorder can affect New Zealanders, too. Those in the Deep South can drive to work and return home in darkness. Even in Auckland the long commute to work can mean you leave for work and return home while it’s dark. City offices can be gloomy, too – I worked for a number of years in a department with no windows and natural light at all.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD may consist of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, weight gain, difficulty concentrating and appetite changes – especially craving carbs.

I’m no medical expert but I frequently battle with anxiety and depression, so these tips might help you just as they have helped me.

With spring here, embrace the positivity this season brings. Spring is about new life – lambs, calves, new flowers, new leafs, gardens coming to life, and a warming of the seas for us to swim in during summer. Spring is about windy weather – a fresh start to blow away the winter bugs. Spring is about longer days – currently almost 90 minutes longer than back in June. Sunlight hours grow by around 20 minutes a week at this time of the year.

If the winter blues are getting to you, talk to your doctor. The weather and seasons have a significant impact on our emotions. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and a lot more comforting when you realise you’re not alone.

– Homepage image / Peter Shone

– Philip Duncan writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday


Linda on 28/08/2012 4:45am

Thank you for sharing your thoughts – it certainly gets to me – perhaps because I come from Africa – much brighter and lighter all year around. I think the lousy summer contributed to it too.

sw on 28/08/2012 12:56am

This winter was quite good actually especially July and most of this month,though the higher sun now is good though Auckland was about normal values on sun in winter too.

Guest on 28/08/2012 12:40am

kinda sad that now it is getting quite clear that winter is almost over…. 🙁

Guest on 28/08/2012 12:14am

Best thing is to go for a walk outside at lunchtime. Beat sitting in office all day.

Derek on 28/08/2012 12:04am

Nice article Phil, fully understand where you are coming from as I feel a bit affected in the way you explain here. But with the spring feeling all around I think it is changing to a more positive outlook now. Seeing all the spring growth in our garden, flowers in bloom, roses all springing into life and the birds getting into their spring routines makes one feel somewhat good.
The early sunrise too with the warmth we now have also makes a great start to the day.

Claire on 27/08/2012 11:27pm

I’ve certainly been feeling it, especially since here in Auckland we had about the lowest sunshine hours on record last summer. The gloom seems to have stretched on forever! I’m really hanging out for some nice long stretches of bright, sunny days. They make me feel much more motivated and cheerful.

Zelda Wynn on 27/08/2012 11:16pm

Does basking in moonlight help SAD if sunlight is scarce ?

WW Forecast Team on 28/08/2012 4:38am

 Haha, I don’t think it works that way Zelda, but hey, if it makes you feel good then clearly it DOES work 🙂


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