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Dealing with West Michigan winter blues

7:22 PM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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  • A West Michigan overcast day in winter
  • The lack of sun is the main reason people suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

(WZZM) - How do you feel when you think of winter? For many across West Michigan, the thought of winter makes them a little sad because as the seasons change from summer to fall to winter so does our moods.

Emily Helder, a clinical psychologist and professor at Calvin College, deals with mood disorders and the weather.

"Most of the time seasons such as winter and fall are linked to lower mood," explains Helder.

But it is not the change in temperate that makes the difference -- it is the lack of light that is giving us the winter blues.

"Less light seems to effect the way people's mood changes," says Helder.  She says that's especially true in northern latitudes, which have shorter days.

In the summer the sun in West Michigan stays up until around 9 p.m., but in the winter the sun can go down around 6 p.m.  That less light affects our moods, but there are some other side effects to less light.

"There is a link between the change of the seasons and less light with feeling much more tired and sleeping longer," explains Emily.

To some extent everyone suffers from this a little bit, but if you get too depressed then you maybe suffering from seasonal affective disorder. A disorder that is 5-10% higher in areas like West Michigan compared to say Florida.

"There are two kinds of treatment for seasonal effective disorder," explains Emily. "One is antidepressants and bright light therapy exposure to very bright light."

For the average person who maybe feeling a little blue during the winter months, try to get out and find the sun -- it may put you in a better mood.

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