I'm from Connecticut so I'm used to brutally cold winters. Coming to Penn State last year I was dreading the winter as I always do. As we dove into those frigid days, I hated life. All I wanted to do was hibernate in my room, under my warm covers and sip hot chocolate. It was such a struggle just to step foot outside my dorm to go to class, get food, or go out with my friends. This is no way to live. Fortunately, I was not alone through this hard time because my roommate felt the same exact way. Eventually, we came to terms with our problem and diagnosed ourselves with Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD.

After jokingly diagnosing ourselves, I decided to look into SAD more now that the winter months are approaching again. According to WebMD, SAD is a sort of depression that only occurs during certain months of the year. This type of depression is common in regions that experience very cold winters, and shorts days (little sunlight). The cause of SAD is not 100% proven but experts assume it is related to the lack of sunlight, in turn the lack of essential vitamins and bodily chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. "When the sun comes up again, and sunlight hits the optic nerve, some of that light is sent to the gland in the brain in charge of melatonin. In response, melatonin secretion decreases," this is why we are awake and energized when the sun is up. "When the sun goes down, the body increases its secretion of melatonin," so we go to sleep. Similarly, when the body senses sunlight serotonin is released, otherwise known as the "happy hormone". In conclusion, this leads to the feeling of excitement, happiness and being energized during the day, and feeling sleepy, groggy and "down" at night (Can the sun make you happy?).

Going back to SAD, I'm sure it makes perfect sense now that if the sun is not shining as often in the winter we will not be producing as much serotonin and too much melatonin. Subsequently, we will be groggy, tired, unmotivated, unhappy and maybe even legitimately depressed. I know this is exactly how I felt last winter!

It's interesting because, like I said previously, researchers are not totally sure of the cause of SAD but I think it seems quite obvious. Our bodies need light and to feel comfortable! The short days of winter, and the cold, bitter weather is not comfortable. Also, we need outdoors time. Yes, cozying up by a fire wrapped in blankets is nice but that's no way to live for 3-4 months! It's nearly impossible to be comfortable in single digit temperatures.

So to wrap up, my roommate and I decided we needed to snap out of it and find a sure for our self-proclaimed illness. We did a lot of research and found that light therapy is the way to go. This makes perfect sense. The light therapy makes up for the lack of vitamins, serotonin and melatonin. We ended up purchasing a "happy light" (very appropriate name)! I can't really say if it worked or not. It could definitely have been somewhat of a placebo effect. I'm certainly not looking forward to the winter months that are almost upon us now L



sad light therapy.jpg


Summer is my favorite season, and while fall is pretty, it's always been my indicator that the months I constantly dread are approaching. I know exactly how you feel and my best friend's mom actually bought that light too! She claimed it worked great, but she is also the type that buys anything and says it works, lol.

Anyways, what I thought was interesting was that SAD does not just occur in the winter. In some people, the depression can show up in the spring and summer months, which may explain why scientists don't have a clear explanation for this disorder.

Your explanation seems quite logical and I had always assumed that was why the disorder occured, but maybe scientists have a little more digging to do on the topic.

Check out the link:

I'm also dreading the winter. Even though I am from PA and know what the weather is like once winter comes around, I never fail to notice how unhappy and anti-social I become when the sun goes down earlier and the temperature drops. I can totally see why the lack of sunlight would be a cause for SAD but it's interesting that Marisa pointed out how SAD doesn't only happen in the winter. I feel like "SAD" in the spring and summer honestly might just be depression that someone is dealing with. Who could be unhappy when the weather is gorgeous and you can spend lots of time outside?! My one friend becomes very depressed in the winter and her doctor recommends she visit a tanning salon for short sessions so that she can receive even just some artificial sunlight. I'm not sure if this works so well, plus it's harmful and dangerous. Going along with the "happy light" treatment, there is a dawn simulation that can be done while you sleep. This is where a light is timed to turn on in the morning and gradually get brighter before you wake up. Maybe I'll try it out myself.

This blog post is so interesting for me to read because I’m from NJ so I’m pretty accustomed to cold winters, snow, and the awfulness that winter brings. Year after year, however, I experience some symptoms of SAD and I’ve never known what I can do to lift my spirits during the cold winter months. A happy light seems like a cool idea (I definitely agree that it is appropriately named!) and I found this article about some simple ways to help out with SAD if you’re going through it! Apparently battling SAD can be as simple as just getting out and getting some fresh air and exercise. Then again, who in their right mind would want to go exercise outside when they are affected by SAD…

What an interesting topic! I also hate winter so much that I've always wanted to go to school in warm states like California, but somehow I ended up being at PENN STATE. I'm dreading winter and I'm from NJ so I pretty much know what cold weathers are like... and every year I go through like a mild depression only because it's cold, rainy and snowy. Rainy weather is the worst because I literally don't feel like doing anything and I for real don't get anything done when it's cold and rainy! (I might chose the wrong school...) I don't like that seasons have huge affects on me so I'm all for the happy light idea!

After this past weekend and sudden shift to colder weather, I found your post very interesting! I know that without a doubt SAD is real thing. Despite the scientific evidence that links it to lack of key vitamins such as serotonin and melatonin, I think it really comes down to what each season represents and our mindset approaching it. With summer everything seems happy; we think of spending time with friends and family, laying out on the beach, swimming in the pool and a lighter wardrobe that makes you feel carefree. Now with winter on the other hand, we think of cloudy and dark days, never wanting to leave the comfort of your home and heavy, restricting clothes just to keep you from freezing. So, who can really argue that people tend to get more sad when winter rolls around. In this article by Dr. Oz,, he talks ways to fight SAD with things like light therapy as well as getting moving outside. However I think the bottom line is to do what you love to do! Go to a movie, get your nails done, shoot hoops with friends; whatever makes you happy, go do it and snap out of your funk. If your looking for more details on SAD, check out this page that includes lots of information.

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