As the end of October fast approaches, so the evenings become darker as we turn our clocks back an hour and head towards the winter solstice. For many, this signifies the beginning of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and a long road ahead of depression often referred to as winter depression. For many years now, I have openly stated how much I dislike the winter months, claiming to suffer from SAD and wishing the months away, until spring returns. The question is, do I really suffer from seasonal affective disorder or am I just using it as an excuse to be lazy and complain?
A Definition of SAD
According to the NHS website, SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, disappearing in the spring and summer but returning in the autumn and winter in a repetitive pattern. Symptoms include:
a persistent low mood
a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day
sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
It’s very easy to self-diagnose something like SAD, without really looking into it properly. I have definitely fallen into this trap, wishing away too many months of my life, pining for spring and summer, blaming my feelings on the long cold dark months. In doing so, I have probably missed out on many wonderful experiences, particularly in my twenties. I have got better during the winter months, in part because I get to fly to summer destinations within my role as cabin crew but also because it has slowly been dawning on me that I don’t have SAD, I’ve just not been looking at things in the right light. My journey in life has taken me to positive psychology, opening up my mind and seeing things from a different perspective. So I have started to think about what autumn and winter really mean to me.
The truth, when I fully reflect over the last 43 years of my life, is that I don’t hate autumn and winter. It is January and February that I have dreaded over the years. October to December is full of many wonderful things and occasions, including Halloween, Bonfire Night and of course, Christmas and New Year. I have always loved these moments, bringing light, life, colour and most importantly love. Halloween grows in popularity each year. Last October, my partner and I had great fun buying all sorts of things to decorate our home with, for a themed dinner with some very dear friends visiting us. November is the month of our civil partnership anniversary, so another reason to celebrate, Christmas has always been magical and New Year is the anniversary of when I met my partner. All in all, October to December is pretty tightly packed with things to look forward to, enjoy and cherish new memories made.
It is not just the dark that I have complained about but also the weather. My claim is that the cold, damp and grey days get me down. If I really think about it, there is nothing cosier than a pub lunch, with a bottle of red and an open fire to forget about the weather or a sofa and trashy film day. London has so much to offer, both indoors and outdoors. Why not use the grey days to go to the plethora of museums, galleries, theatres and other attractions available? On the sunny days, no matter how cold, wrap up warm, get out there and embrace the beauty of a dry, crisp and sunny day.
So what about January and February? Of course they are a bit dull. Everybody has spent their money over Christmas. It’s a period of frivolity and indulgence; it’s bound to make you feel a bit low when it comes to an end. The same thing happens after being on holiday. Talking of which, for the last 10 years, I have gone to Brazil at the end of February. It has become an annual trip that has grown from a one-week stay to almost a month, something that many people can only dream of.
Just writing this article has reminded me of the need for gratitude. I am truly blessed that I can enjoy all the things described above. It helps me to realise that I am fortunate as I have the choices and resources to do things during these months. A simple shift in my mental approach means no more claiming to have SAD. I am slowly learning to appreciate and love all of our seasons. This year has been a more challenging year, yet more than ever before I am truly ready to embrace the forthcoming winter. It’s going to be my best winter yet.
For some, SAD is a genuine disorder that requires help and I do not want to sound flippant about it. I just hope that they are able to seek the various forms of help available to them and are able to enjoy the winter rather than wishing precious months of their lives away.
About the author: Stuart Dickson’s passion for personal development began in September 2013, when he joined a Network Marketing Company. Part of his development is increasing his spirituality and the many ways of doing this. His first blog, Happy Monday People was born from a project that came about from his personal development journey facebook.com/Happylifepeople
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