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Seasonal depression in summer and how to fix it.

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Bright sunny days, clear skies, and warm weather sound like the happy trifecta for most people. The sun is out and with long daylight hours, there is much to enjoy during summer. Generally, wintertime is when the good mood drops. This seasonal change in mood is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and affects 10% of people globally [1]. In most cases, those with SAD report happy moods during spring and summer. A small fraction of people experience summer depression, and is referred to as reverse SAD.

Seasons and sadness: what happens in your brain?

Summertime is joyful and fun, so can you get seasonal depression in the summer? Possibly.

Your mental state is influenced by your body clock and your brain chemicals. Summer SAD is under-researched, and the exact phenomenon is yet to be properly understood but there are theories that may shed some light.Your body clock is influenced by environmental light and many of the chemical reactions that take place are light dependent. In winter there is low light, while summer brings an abundance of light. Light influences your sleep-wake cycle and this has an effect on when and how much you sleep [2]. Light influences the production of your happy brain chemical, serotonin and your sleep chemical, melatonin. Increase in light contributes to increase in serotonin production, which is one reason why you feel happier during longer summer days. Serotonin is converted to melatonin at night, when there is less light. 

In addition to low appetite and increased irritability, insomnia is a symptom of summer SAD [3]. One theory suggests that for those who suffer from summer SAD, there might be too much light [4], which contributes to their symptoms. Melatonin production is low during light hours. In summer, when days are longer, melatonin production decreases, contributing to low sleep and consequently mood changes. Other factors contributing to feeling sad in summer could be related to body image issues and social anxiety. 

Banish SAD: How to feel happier in summer?

Since science is yet to deconstruct summer SAD and provide evidence-based solutions, it is a good idea to focus on alleviating SAD symptoms that you experience. Here are 3 ways you can banish SAD symptoms:

1. Balance your brain chemicals for better mood: It is essential to balance your serotonin and melatonin levels. You need an adequate amount of serotonin to make melatonin. Spending time in sunlight can help increase serotonin levels. Increasing intake of a protein building block called tryptophan, which your body uses to make serotonin can help increase serotonin levels. Foods like tofu, chicken, dairy and eggs are rich in tryptophan. A shortcut method of increasing serotonin production is to take its direct building block called 5-HTP which is available in supplemental form. This can help ensure adequate serotonin for melatonin production. Brain feed’s 100mg 5-htp is extracted and isolated from Ghanian Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds. 98% of the tablet is comprised of 5-htp making it the smallest, nutrient-dense tablet available and no unnecessary bulking agents. You can read more about it here.

2. Build better sleep to wake up happier: Since insomnia is a common symptom of summer SAD, you can take steps to build a good sleep routine. Melatonin needs darkness. Help your melatonin levels by ensuring you sleep in a dark room. Having good bedding, dark curtains, and using eye masks can help induce good sleep. Having fixed sleep and wake times can ensure you get sufficient sleep even when daylight hours are long. Read more about building a sleep routine here

3. Spend time with loved ones for joyful days: Summer is a great time to catch up on outdoor activities to bond with friends. Just spending 10-20 mins out in nature was found to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety [5]. What better time than summer to enjoy nature’s glory. You will feel much better being out soaking in the sun than being indoors with the curtains down.

Balancing your brain chemicals, getting adequate sleep to resolve insomnia and spending time in nature are easy ways to help you alleviate summer sad symptoms to experience the full joy of summer and keep you in a good mood all season long.

 

References

  1. Meesters, Y. et al. (2016). Seasonal affective disorder, winter type: current insights and treatment options. Psychology research and behavior management, 9, 317–327.
  2. Germain, A., & Kupfer, D. J. (2008). Circadian rhythm disturbances in depression. Human psychopharmacology23(7), 571–585.
  3. Munir S, Abbas M. Seasonal Depressive Disorder. [Updated 2022 Mar 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet].
  4. Healthline. (2017). It Turns Out You Really Can Get That Summertime Sadness. [online] 
  5. Meredith, G. R., Rakow, D. A., Eldermire, E. R. B., Madsen, C. G., Shelley, S. P., & Sachs, N. A. (2020). Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in psychology10, 2942.

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