A tip to combat seasonal depression amid the shorter days

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ST. LOUIS – The first official day of winter begins on Thursday, marking the start of the winter solstice, dictated by the position of the Earth relative to the sun, as we exit the shortest day of the year—9 hours and 28 minutes of daytime—and fall into the longest night of the year due to the sun being at its most southern position in the sky. The Earth’s tilt is what gives us our seasons.

“So, that’s why we’re getting cooler weather, less sunlight. And we warm up in the spring and summer because we have more sunlight in the spring and summer,” Jon Carney, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said.

With more darkness in the sky than sunlight, this time of the year is not always happy for a lot of people. Especially those who fight seasonal depression.

“Seasonal depression usually happens in the winter months when we get less light. The belief is that with less light, you have a lowered serotonin level, so that can impact your mood,” Dr. Paul Nims, a licensed professional counselor at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital Wentzville, said. “All these things can contribute to feeling kind of down.”

How much daylight will St. Louis have on the shortest day of 2023?

Nims states to keep an eye out if you feel less social, lacking beneficial sleep at night, or becoming more irritable. He suggests that light therapy can be beneficial.

Light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to mimic natural sunlight, helping to boost serotonin.

“And they’re just a very bright light that shines in your face for 20–40 minutes a day (which) can help with seasonal depression,” he said.

Keeping a balanced diet daily and regular exercise can be helpful in keeping your mental health sharp during this time of the year.

For those who struggle with seasonal depression, starting tomorrow, we are steadily increasing the amount of daylight minutes from now until June 2024.


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