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Why It's Important For Black People to Understand That Seasonal Depression Is A Real Thing

A photo of a cold autumn day from the perspective of a person standing in the woods surrounded  by dying trees with orange leaves falling from them.

For many, entering into the fall season symbolizes oversized sweatshirts, cute boots, football, cuddles by the fire with that special someone, and the assurance that family-oriented holidays are right around the corner. For others however, transitioning from summer, a season that is the epitome of outdoor cookouts, long days by the pool, and the guarantee of being able to luxuriate and gallivant while the sun consistently kisses our skin just enough to give us our daily dose of vitamin D, can prove to be difficult. Vitamin D is said to improve energy levels and mood while lessening the recurrence of fatigue. Black people in general have a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency. So, in addition to us already struggling in that department, for 4 to 5 months every year, the sun is not optimally supplementing the deficiency we already have. Aside from the vitamin D we acquire from the sun, we also receive a hormone called dopamine. In the most basic terms possible, dopamine is known as the “feel good” hormone. Dopamine gives us a sense of pleasure and motivates us to seek out pleasurable activities. Since the sun provides us with this hormone, I would presume that this is one reason why summers are so “lit” or why everyone wants to be “outside” during this particular season.

Naturally, for some when a region transitions from summer to fall, this means days are shorter. There is less time within the day that there is sunlight. Also within this transition, the weather becomes cooler and in most instances, cold sometimes to the point of snow. This change in weather gradually pushes people from congregating outside to feeling more comfortable indoors as the weather simply does not give that warm (pun intended) welcoming feeling. During this time, it is very common for people to struggle with what is known as seasonal depression, the clinical term, Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.” Obviously, first realizing that seasonal depression is an actual thing will aid you in addressing it. As we are nearing the end of summer and anticipating the joys of fall, we also have to keep in mind adverse impacts. Here are a few ways you can actively address the symptoms that may come with this type of depression:

1. Supplement.

This is important to note because where there is a void, there is a need. Because the sun is not as present during the fall and winter seasons, it is important that black people especially, acquire other sources of vitamin D to battle fatigue and feeling lethargic. Mushrooms, chamomile tea, and oranges are just a few things you can consume to naturally supplement vitamin D. You could also choose to supplement it with daily vitamins. Whatever your preference, as a black person who is likely to have a vitamin D deficiency, you should be supplementing anyway.

2. Practice mindfulness.

To become more self-aware and connected with you as your most authentic self, mindfulness can be extremely beneficial. I always tell my clients that although meditation is a form of mindfulness, there are so many other things you can do to become more aligned with yourself and your feelings. Don’t limit yourself to one type of mindful practice as this has the ability to stifle the motivation you may have to engage in it when times become tough. Assert that when you feel uncomfortable during sad times, you will practice mindfulness. Yes, this can include meditation, but you can also choose to indulge in journaling, yoga, sound or music therapy, and even being outside and connecting with nature even if it may be cold. Practicing mindfulness helps you not only acknowledge feelings of discomfort, sadness, and even depression, but it will assist you in being able to better emotionally regulate. This is a perfect example of moving through your feelings and not simply around them.

3. Seek out natural light as much as possible.

I can’t stress this one enough. Although during the fall and the winter seasons, the sun is not gracing us with that warm and inviting energy, she (yes, I have personified the sun just as we personify Mother Earth), is still present. During the most opportune times, when there is sunlight, go outside and soak up the energy that she continues to emit. We must honor the sun in fall and winter as we do in the summer and spring times. She is still present and although giving varying benefits, she will always be advantageous.

I will never not encourage everyone, but black people especially, to go to therapy. Take what you need from this read and leave what you don’t but just know that you have the ability to DO SOMETHING while improving any depressive symptoms that may be associated with seasonal change. Seeking out and engaging with a therapist will help you realize the need for change and strategies that may best address the concerns you struggle with.

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