How Can Daylight Savings Time Affect Your Mental Health?
Daylight savings just came to an end this past weekend. For most of the United States, what was once 6PM is now 5PM. As the days get shorter and there is less and less daylight, the change can impact our mental health.
Think about your mood on a rainy or snowy day. Now think about your mood when the sun is shining. Light can have a big impact on how we feel. As the days shorten, it may mean you are leaving the house to go to work before the sun is up and returning after the sun has set.
This can throw off our circadian rhythms. Studies show 1,2 that depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts increase around the time daylight savings time ends.
As we lose exposure to sunlight, serotonin and melatonin levels drop, which can lead to feelings of depression and sadness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for some, the transition from Daylight Savings Time (DST) to Standard Time signals the beginning of the “dark” season when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may kick-in. SAD is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, usually in the late fall and winter, with periods of great mood the rest of the year.3
The lack of daylight also reduces the amount of time we spend outside. We miss out on natural light exposure, outdoor exercise, and time in nature. The additional time inside leads to more time being sedentary as well.
While DST itself does not cause mental health problems, if you have a pre-existing mental disorder or are prone to seasonal depression, the time change may have a big impact on your mental health.
If the early sunset and shorter days are getting you down, here are a few tips to cope with the change:
Go for an early morning walk if you can. Or try to get outside during your lunch break. More light exposure, especially the bright blue light prevalent in the early morning, can combat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Spending time in nature also gives you a mood lift by increasing your serotonin levels.
Unable to get outside? See if you can move your desk/workspace closer to a window for any sun exposure you can get.
Exercise is a great, natural way to improve your mood and keep your energy up. The key is to choose something that you enjoy. This doesn’t mean you have to head to the gym. Dancing in your living room, doing online exercise classes, and walking your dog are all great exercise options that don’t require gym memberships.
If you are struggling with feelings of depression, suicide, or anxiety, consider professional help. Tell your doctor what you are experiencing and together you can discuss if treatment is right for you.
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Listen to your care providers as they know you and your condition best. Thank you for reading!
The Team at BSDI