Shorter days, time change could be bring up feelings of ‘winter blues’

With the sun setting before 5 p.m. now and temperatures starting to drop, you might find yourself beginning to feel the winter blues.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 12:45 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - With the sun setting before 5 p.m. now and temperatures starting to drop, you might find yourself beginning to feel the winter blues.

“Some people get sad in the winter months,” said Dr. Barry Sarvet, Baystate Health’s chief of psychiatry.

If you feel your mood changing with the seasons, you’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. and commonly referred to as the winter blues, typically hits people around this time of year, especially as we set the clocks back and the days become shorter.

“It’s the actual reduction in the amount of time where the light is stimulating,” Sarvet explained. “Some people feel as if those the darkness is scary or lonely and that they feel separated from other people or that they feel as if they are kind of losing opportunities for having joy and fun experiences.” Sarvet told Western Mass News that people experiencing S.A.D. show similar signs to those with depression.

“Depression can cause not just sadness, but also loss of energy and decreased interest and ability to experience pleasure. Some people can have suicidal feelings and some people can be irritable and angry,” Sarvet added.

Sarvet suggested spending time with others, getting adequate sleep, and exercising and he said the best way to cope is to get outside in the sunlight, try waking up earlier to make the most of the hours of the day that have light, but some may need to seek further treatment. One of the natural ways you can combat winter blues is with infrared light therapy, which is offered at The Wellness Drip in West Springfield.

“Red light therapy generally is mixed red light with infrared light and it penetrates deeper into the tissues and it affects the cells on a mitochondria level, so you were getting benefits of biochemical, molecular, and tissue level, enhancing the mitochondrial and improving energy, mood, helping with sleep,” said Alyssa McKenna, owner of The Wellness Drip.

McKenna told Western Mass News that, once daylight savings hits, her business gets busier with people looking for ways to shake the winter blues.

“As the light changes, we definitely get more clients that are interested in ways to improve their mood, whether that is through vitamin infusions, red light therapy, or even ketamine infusions,” McKenna explained.

Seeing less sunlight might bring down your mood, but getting that warmth and light from infrared lights can actually be a healthier alternative.

“It does not, however, have the UV rays that can be damaging to our skin. The sunlight itself is more. The top layer of our skin is red light penetrates even deeper, affecting, in a positive way, more levels than just the exterior so much that we have,” McKenna noted. “It is good for anti-aging. It is good for muscle recovery. It’s good for dancing energy. It’s really an all-around wellness service.

McKenna recommended utilizing the light therapy once a week, but if you’re feeling extra sad, you can go two to three times a week until you see improvement which typically happens around week two. While it’s too late this year, beating the winter blues is something you can get ahead of starting as early as August or September.

“Most practitioners would recommend doing, kind of taking a proactive effort into improving your light intake prior to us feeling like that kind of dip and we do that with the red light, as well as vitamin injections with vitamin D, that really, really helps,” McKenna added.

While Sarvet recommended seeking professional medical treatment if you’re feeling severe symptoms of S.A.D., McKenna said she is seeing more people trying out holistic approaches first.

“Wellness, in general, is taking a turn in western medicine and it is nice to see that there are other options besides just the pharmaceutical medication. They definitely have their place and we advocate that people should continue to use those, but it is nice to have other options that are more holistic and natural,” McKenna noted.

McKenna said another benefit of infrared light therapy is that it counteracts all the blue light we are exposed to, which can improve your sleep cycle and help you feel more alert.