melon-collieWhen Labor Day rolls around, that signals shorter days, falling leaves, and cooler temperatures. For me, my spirit soars! I have rain on the brain. The idea that soon we will be able to enjoy the fireplace almost makes me giddy. I tire of the heat and muggy makes me grumpy. True, the sun doesn’t come up as early, but everyone on the Pickle Ball Court is still there by 8:30 and can play longer and better when the heat isn’t a factor. (Although when a ball hits a cold finger her hurts like hell.) Cool, light air in the evenings means no more air conditioner and the return of soup for dinner.

However, I have friends whose moods fall right along with the leaves. They have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and winter makes them feel bad because of the shorter days and lack of sunshine. As they add layers of clothing, they also add layers of stress and unhappiness. Though no definite causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder have been identified, several theories have been offered. It’s probable the winter season causes changes in the brain chemistry, specifically serotonin and dopamine production and balance. One of the characteristics of SAD, the strong craving for foods high in carbohydrates, gives credence to this theory, since these foods increase levels of serotonin in the brain.

The changing, shrinking daylight hours mean less opportunity to sit, work, or play outside soaking in the sun. Sometimes when the weather drives you indoors, it means sitting in the house and ‘dwelling’. (That’s my non-scientific word for letting your mind wander to negative or painful times and you just think, think, and think about situations you can’t change.) The key to all this is recognizing the situation if it applies and then taking some preventative measures.

Realize that SAD actually starts in the fall. It just peaks in the winter. Taking this into consideration now can help ease the transition from summer to fall and lessen the opportunity for depression. Don’t let your emotional wellness slip away with the daylight. Here are some things seniors can do to avoid depression during the winter months:

  • Plan extra social activities. For older people, there are fewer visitors in the winter. Socialization is very important so while the activities may not look the same, there are still plenty of things to do and places to go.
  • Have your doctor check your vitamin levels.
  • Invest in lighting! Perhaps blue lights. While we cannot keep the sun shining for more hours in a day, we can make sure we have plenty of lamps (resembling natural sunlight) and that our lighting is the very best it can possibly be.
  • Plan an exercise routine. It doesn’t have to be strenuous or even outdoors, but exercise has often been equated to produce the same level of mood-boosting serotonin as a mild anti-depressant.
  • Consider getting a pet.

Start today to increase your odds of preventing depression and the pending frustration fall and winter can cause. For more information, check out this in-depth guide from eMedicineHealth.