Here in Florida, the weather is nearly perfect. The flowers, insects, and snakes (!) have already sprung.
Others are not so lucky. This week, my family members in western New York had a severe snow storm, and more snow is expected throughout the United States.
Although we didn’t feel it as much here, Winter 2013-2014 was bitter for most.
We were the only state in the lower 48 that didn’t get snow this year. However, we still noticed the colder temperatures and the inclement weather that created cloudy skies for days.
In Florida, we definitely notice when it is dark for more than 24 hours.
Everyone experiences a change in the cooler months.
When the sun is back, and the clothing gets lighter, my depression tends to lift, if just a bit.
I have noticed, through mood tracking, that I am happiest between April and August each year.
Even though it gets extremely hot and humid from May to September, the time at the beach, by the pool, and the increase in outdoor activities really has a positive impact on my mood.
I also believe that the longer days also suit my bipolar disorder better.
There is scientific evidence to support that sunlight decreases depression, and many of us know that it is also personally true.
The Relationship between Sunlight and Depression
Studies have shown that the brain produces more serotonin on sunny days than on cloudy ones.
Serotonin is the mood-lifting chemical that plays a direct role in depression.
Most people feel better when they’re in the sun, but for those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or chronic depression symptoms, the changing of the seasons in March and April is a godsend.
When bright light reaches the retina of your eye, it stimulates the optic nerve and in turn sends a signal to your brain that regulates the production of serotonin and melatonin.
Anti-depressant medications like Prozac and Paxil boost serotonin.
One of the best things you can do to improve your depressed mood is go outside. It’s also free!
Activities Full of Sunlight
Depending on where you live, the time, type, and duration that you are able to experience nice, sunny days varies.
In Florida, some of the best activities involving sunlight include:
- Days at the beach
- Canoeing and kayaking in our bodies of fresh water
- Outdoor eateries
- Boating on the inter-coastal waterways
- Neighborhood walks
- Chatting with friends on the porch or in the backyard
- Visits to the community pool
- Shopping districts
What are your favorites?
Other Benefits of Sunlight on Bipolar Disorder
Besides the increase in serotonin, sunlight can reduce stress, pain, improve natural sleep, and reduce cancer risks.
During periods of depression, we tend to desire the opposite of what would help ourselves.
Sleeping with the blinds shut or solitary tasks inside might seem like the best choice for us while we don’t feel well.
I encourage all of you (once the weather gets better!) to get outside at least once a day and soak up the sun.
Report back, and tell me how you feel!
Readers, weigh in: Does sunlight help you feel better? How is the climate where you live, and how do you get your vitamin D? What are your favorite outdoor activities? Do you think you may need more sunlight?