Combating Seasonal Depression Within the Black Community  

Written by Ifeanyi Paschal

Someone might think you live in a cave if you haven’t heard of “depression” before. However, nobody will “crucify” you for admitting that you don’t know what “seasonal depression” is. Interestingly so, you might be going through seasonal depression without knowing it. Now, permit me to take you back to your early winter months. Did you notice that you were feeling sad or down for almost every day? Perhaps you lost interest in activities you once enjoyed or you saw yourself sleeping more than you normally would. As the days went by, you started feeling hopeless, isolated, guilty, or even harboring suicidal thoughts. Well, if you experienced those symptoms at that time, you could have seasonal depression.

Also called winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression is a type of depression due to the changes in the season. Simply put, it is a disorder that begins and ends at the same time every year. SAD often starts in the fall and continues into the winter months, making you feel gloomy and zapping your energy. If you go through the episode of winter blues, you will often experience those symptoms as the spring or summer months set in. In addition to those symptoms, some people present with irritability, anxiety, decreased sex drive, weight gain, and increased appetite.

Causes and Prevalence Within the Black Community  

There is no clear-cut cause of winter blues, but most health experts link it to two factors. First, whenever you expose yourself to the sun, your brain releases a hormone called serotonin, which helps to boost your mood and make you stay focused and calm. However, at night, there is no sunshine, so your brain doesn’t release serotonin. Before long, you hit the sack! Now, relate that to the winter months. At that time, your body is adjusting to less sunlight and colder temperatures. Over time, your serotonin level may drop, leading to seasonal depression. In the Black community, SAD affects both the young and old. Nevertheless, it is rare among under-20 people, worsens as people age, and affects women more than men.

In fact, studies have shown that Blacks have a higher rate of Vitamin D deficiency, meaning that the lack of sunshine on our melanin skin affects our mood or could culminate in seasonal depression. In other words, compared to people with lighter skin, Blacks have more melanin in their skin, which affects the body’s ability to synthesize Vitamin D. Therefore, the less light we have access to, the more likely it is that we’d find ourselves feeling stressed, less energetic, and changes disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm—the daily clock that regulates how our body functions during bedtime and waking hours. But then, irrespective of what the cause is, if you have SAD, you are likely more interested in its solution than its cause, so I am here to show you how to combat it.

Ways of Combating Seasonal Depression

You can use these tried-and-true techniques to treat the symptoms of SAD:

  1. Get enough Vitamin D: As you’ve learned, health experts don’t seem to agree on the definite cause of SAD, but most of them agree that Vitamin D deficiency could lead to it. Therefore, ensure you get plenty of Vitamin D from the sun during the day and eat diets rich in Vitamin D to lower your odds of sliding into seasonal depression. According to Healthline, the daily value (DV) of Vitamin D is 800 IU (20 mcg). Let that sink in! Then, eat plenty of fatty fish, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms, etc.  
  • Bright light therapy: During winter months, expose yourself to artificial light to help keep your circadian rhythm on track! It is known as the bright light therapy. Get a phototherapy box—an adjustable lamp that mimics natural sunshine—to help you manage SAD episodes. The box gives off brighter light than the regular light bulbs; the lights come in different wavelengths. If you have winter blues, ensure you expose yourself to a phototherapy box of about 10,000 lux intensity to lead you to the light at the end of the tunnel and spice up your mood!
  • Try dawn simulators: Yes, I know that the dawn simulators probably sound Greek to you, but they are sunrise alarm clocks that wake users up by producing light that gradually increases in intensity between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Instead of abruptly making a “wakey-wakey” sound or alarm, the light-producing device helps you to wake up when its light shines. To use a dawn simulator to remedy winter blues, place it on your bedside cabinet next to your bed so you can feel the rays the moment they shine. It comes in different models, but I recommend the full-spectrum light because it is much closer to natural sunlight.
  • Get ready for it: Let’s be honest here, SAD is a mental health disorder. Therefore, you can combat it by conditioning your mind ahead of the “strike” time. Rediscover yourself by finding out what makes you happy. For instance, get involved in sporting activities, go to the cinema, go on a vacation, and chat and hang out with close pals. Do more in-person interactions, but don’t go boozing with friends because excessive alcohol use worsens the situation. More importantly, kick off these fun activities before the winter blues set in, not when you are already in it.
  • Use aromatherapy: Furthermore, studies have shown that aromatherapy could be a potent SAD treatment. To break it down, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Health specialists say that those therapeutic oils affect the part of the brain that controls the mood and the body’s internal clock. You can apply them to the skin or inhale them. Try out bergamot oil, lavender oil, patchouli oil, and rose oil.  
  • Track your progress: Lastly, I strongly suggest you get a friend to help you stay accountable, get a friend you can exercise with, or you could join a support group. This way, they will track your progress with you and help kick SAD out of your life for good!

On the flipside, certain lifestyle choices worsen SAD. These include drinking alcohol, partaking in recreational drugs, or resorting to over-the-counter medications. In summary, if the remedies above prove futile, you should see your doctor for some prescription antidepressants. At Elevate Black Health, you mean the world to us. That’s why I have specially written this do-it-yourself article for you. Don’t give SAD the power to take away your joy or ruin your mood. So, give one or more of those techniques a shot in order to live and enjoy life to the fullest!

For more reading:



About the author

Ifeanyi Paschal

Ifeanyi Paschal is an experienced researcher and versatile writer. With nearly a decade of experience in the writing industry, Paschal has coordinated and participated in several research studies and written for companies in a wide spectrum of industries, including health and wellness, tech, HRM, and business development.

As a writer with Elevate Black Health, Paschal goes the extra mile to do extensive research and craft health and wellness articles that help the global Black community deepen its understanding of relevant health challenges, find effective solutions to them, and maximize healthy living.

Leave a Comment