Listen To The Cricket
The singing cricket chirps throughout the long night, tolling in the cloudy autumn with its rain. Intent on disturbing the gloomy sleepless soul, the cricket moves towards the bed chirp by chirp.
~ Bei Ju-Yi, Tang dynasty
The fall field cricket sings in the autumn and dies with winter. As a symbol of autumn, crickets are associated with the fate of mankind, loneliness, and sadness. For these reasons, they are used prolifically in Chinese poems.
As shorter autumn days move into the darker days of winter, many people find themselves suffering from feelings of sadness or increased moodiness, which may be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
It is very important to address these feelings in order to gain control over them before they result in more serious changes in your mood, appetite, and energy levels. And if you have already been diagnosed with SAD, I hope you are aware of the importance in starting treatment before your symptoms appear.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons. It is common for symptoms to start in the fall and continue into winter. Its symptoms include:
- Appetite changes, including cravings for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
While the exact cause is unknown, it is thought that SAD is directly related to decreased sunlight. Light is the main environmental cue used by the body to synchronize the timing of the body’s physiological functions; functions associated with activities that occur in the daytime, and functions associated with activities associated with rest that occur in the nighttime.
Decreased exposure to sunlight may disrupt the timing of these physiological functions or the body’s circadian rhythm, which then in turn affects the release of hormones, specifically two hormones, which are most closely associated with SAD: serotonin and melatonin. Both of these hormones help regulate sleep, appetite, and mood.
Decreased sunlight exposure can also affect levels of vitamin D, a hormone as well, which is synthesized in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D may also play a role in depression and other mood disorders. Always check with a physician prior to starting any supplements to be sure you actually have a vitamin D deficiency.
So, in a nutshell, decreased light affects your circadian rhythm or timing of your biological clocks (yes, there are many) which are responsible for the release of your hormones which directly affects how you feel.
How can we manage possible symptoms?
- Get outside even on cloudy days in natural light
- Take a trip to a sunny, tropical location (Simple, right?!)
- Get enough rest
- Take time to relax
- Manage your stress
- Engage in physical activity
- Eat right
- Sit closer to bright windows at home and work
- Make your living environment brighter and sunnier by opening all the blinds and curtains
- Additional interventions include light therapy,* exposure to artificial light usually first thing in the morning, talk therapy, which can help you learn how to manage stress and negative thoughts better, and the use of antidepressants if these methods are not effective.
I hope this information was helpful to you. It’s important to consider the effect decreased light has on all of us and to be proactive with interventions before the effect impacts us negatively.
Wishing you the very best in health and happiness,
*light therapy requires recommendation and proper guidance by a physician.
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