Have you noticed how much darker it is getting in the early evening, and how much earlier the twilight begins? If your mood, energy level, and motivation start to decline in the October/November timeframe, but bounce back to normal in the Spring, you may have what has become known as "seasonal affective disorder," or SAD.
SAD is an actual medical condition, experienced by those who have a possible chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance is not noticeable until a lack of light and the shorter days of winter bring it on. Those overcast days that many regions experience at this time of year are responsible for doing more than making your mood a bit "off."
According to the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 10 percent to 20 percent of Americans may experience a mild form of SAD. Certain people may have a genetic vulnerability to developing the condition, which affects more women than men and tends to start appearing in the teen years.
This condition was first brought forward to the popular press after an episode of the popular TV show "Northern Exposure" showed what life was like in Alaska during the dark winter months. SAD is characterized by depression, exhaustion and a complete lack of interest in people and regular activities. SAD interferes with a person's outlook on life; tragically, it seems to affect one's ability to function properly.
You can take steps to reduce the risk of developing SAD. Get outside during the winter, even if it is overcast, and try to expose your eyes to natural light for one hour each day. By opening your window coverings to let in natural light, you will be lessening the effect of this seasonal disorder on those in your household.
If you do develop SAD, it can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy. There are even high-tech headbands containing mounted lights that deliver light to your retina whether you are inside or outdoors.
In certain Arctic regions, such as the Scandinavian countries, or parts of Russia such as Siberia, the population has recognized the effects of SAD for hundreds of years, although of course they did not have a name for this "malady." Their method of reducing the depression and boosting the mood was, and still is, to consume the local herb Rhodiola rosea which is now a popular product in the States and Canada.