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Shortened daylight in B.C. can put damper on mental health

Canadian Mental Health Association says 2%-3% of British Columbians get seasonal affective disorder

It’s not unusual to find your mood matching the gloomy weather this time of year, but what exactly causes those blues and how can you conquer them?

Feeling low might seem like it coincides with the cold and wet weather, but researchers have found it actually has more to do with the shortened daylight between mid-October to the end of February, said Sarah Hamid-Balma, director of mental health promotion with the B.C. branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“About two to three per cent of British Columbians might have … seasonal depression. Another 15 per cent or so feel what we call the winter blahs,” Hamid-Balma said.

A dip in mood could stem from a number of things, she said, but the darkness especially affects people’s motivation to get out and socialize.

“Things like daylight and how hot or cold it is, that might affect how easy it is for us to exercise or our willingness to leave home and see friends. Cold and dark and rainy days can make both of those things really hard.”

She recommends “winterizing” your mental health, just like you would with your car, by eating well, getting plenty of rest and finding ways to exercise indoors.

“We tend to think of these things for our physical health. We don’t realize just how important they are to our mental well being.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association also recommends trying to get as much exposure to natural light as possible, whether by sitting near a window or taking a walk during a lunch break.

“Even if it’s slightly cloudy, getting some extra sunlight is good.”

If things are getting worse, Hamid-Balma said it’s important not to diagnose yourself but to make an appointment with a doctor.

Other resources include bounceback.bc.ca and heretohelp.ca, which both focus on mental health issues including seasonal affective disorder.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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