the seasonal depression demon is powerful

It’s that time of year again. The days are short, the nights are long, and everything is grey all the time. You know what I’m talking about. It’s November in Vancouver.

November is probably the worst month of the year, wouldn’t you agree? There aren’t even any holidays in November, not for Canadians who celebrate Thanksgiving in October anyway. All we have is Remembrance Day, and that’s more of a time for solemn introspection. It’s not exactly something that people count down the days for in anticipation.

Winter in Vancouver brings a sort of somber that is tough to shake. On a nice day this city is very beautiful, but in the winter the rain becomes incredibly frequent, and the grey skies have a way of casting a sort of dullness over the entire population.

Side bar. My laptop just went into night mode, signalling that it is officially “sundown”. It’s 4:37pm. That’s depressing.

They don’t call it Raincouver for nothing.

Which leads me into the topic of my article; I wanted to talk about seasonal depression. You know, the sadness and lethargy you feel when the days get shorter, and the weather gets colder. Growing up an athlete in Vancouver, I never used to be overly affected by seasonal depression. Rainy winters were a very familiar concept to me, and I spent the entire season running around playing outdoor sports in spite of the pouring rain and cold. As unpleasant as it was at times, I greatly exceeded my requirement for fresh air and endorphins. This got me through the dark months relatively unphased.

Now that I’m an adult and I’m no longer partaking in organized sports, the onus is on me to make sure I exercise regularly to keep the demons away. I’m very disciplined with my schedule, but now my exercise looks less like running around an outdoor field and more like lifting weights in the gym. It gets the job done, but in a bare minimum sort of way. The weight of the winter gloom is heavier these days.

Seasonal depression is a product of reduced amounts of sunlight. It messes with the body’s internal clock, which disrupts your circadian rhythm, which imbalances hormones like serotonin and melatonin which are really important to your emotional welfare. When these hormones are out of balance, it results in things like fatigue, inability to concentrate, and a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy.

AKA… depression.

With the colder weather, you might find yourself with a sense of overall melancholy and introspection.  These feelings are also probably compounded from the fact that life in the summer is so bright and vibrant and warm. The descent from the highs of summer into winter’s dark somber is enough to give any reasonable person a decent serving of emotional whiplash.

Do you have a preferred remedy for seasonal depression?

I’ve been hearing more and more that the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself in terms of your psychological welfare is to get sunlight as soon as you wake up. 10-15 minutes of it straight up on the retinas. Morning sunlight does a combination of different things to balance your hormones and make you feel less crappy overall. It reduces melanin production, making sure you stay more awake throughout the day (without relying on caffeine to keep you vertical); it triggers serotonin release, enhancing mood and overall well-being; and it helps your body produce vitamin D. We all know about good ol’ Vitamin D.

If you’re like me, you might also find yourself reaching for cheap dopamine sources to put a [fleeting] smile on your face. For me this has been a really tough battle. I’ll find myself completely zoned out on the couch for hours, just scrolling on Tiktok, desperately sifting through content to find something that makes me feel a bit of a thrill. Does this sound familiar?



You already know that social media isn’t good for us emotionally, but you have probably also noticed that perpetual sensation of deep dissatisfaction, and an unshakeable lack of fulfillment that you can’t exactly pinpoint the cause of.

That feeling is a product of something called dopamine depletion.

Dopamine is a hormone that is produced naturally in the body, and when things like social media cause a really quick increase in dopamine levels, your body instinctually tries to counteract it. This is because the body is always trying to maintain a state of equilibrium, and when any of its hormone levels are out of balance, it does whatever it can to regain that balance. In the case of dopamine, it regains that equilibrium by emitting hormones that take you down emotionally. This is why reaching for quick sources of dopamine take you so high, and then leave you feeling so low.

Dopamine is getting a bit of a bad rap these days, and I think people just aren’t really understanding it. There’s good sources of dopamine, and there’s bad sources. The bad ones tend to be from things that offer quick and easy gratification. Cheap dopamine sources are abundant these days, and it can be really hard to avoid them. But exercising some discernment and evaluating how certain things and experiences make you feel afterwards can be a really valuable tool in determining what’s bad for you and what’s not.

If you need ideas for good sources of dopamine, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Sleep well, exercise often, eat nutritious food, don’t drown your misery in a bottle of wine on a daily basis… you know the drill.

Oh, also, social connection is important. It’s easy to get stuck in a habit of rolling yourself up in a blanket like a burrito and becoming one with your couch, but as cozy as that is it really isn’t beneficial for your mental health. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, because I love Netflix as much as the next person… but you really need to hang out with your friends more. If you think you get enough social interaction, that’s good, but I challenge you to add one more event in just in case.

I’m in this with you. Let’s get through the dark days together.

Love you <3




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