Are any of you affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? If so, have you considered how your weed habit may be intertwined with it? For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, as winter looms large, it’s time to get a leg up on SAD, and if you’re struggling with weed dependence, this can make things doubly difficult but there are strategies to combat SAD and weed dependence which we will get into.
What is SAD?
For those of you new to the concept of SAD, it’s a phenomenon where some people get a heightened sense of depression or anxiety from the changing of the seasons. It is most closely associated with winter although there are cases where some people are more affected in the summer.
For the lay scientist, it’s a fairly easy to understand where SAD comes from, especially from the wintertime perspective, because the animal kingdom has its own version of SAD called hibernation. Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, tells the animals in colder climates to sort of shut down in the wintertime when food is scarce. By lessening activity in the winter months, the animals reduce their daily calorie requirement thereby increasing their chances for survival. Even animals that don’t go into hibernation go into periods of decreased activity.
Way back in the Paleo Era, perhaps we humans followed this same cycle to increase our own chances of survival. Some of us may still bear the genetic imprint to follow this cycle. Whether this is truly the case or not, SAD is a recognizable mood disorder for human beings. It is estimated that about 6.1% of the US population experiences SAD and 14.3% experience subsyndromal SAD (a lesser form of SAD). The rate of reported affectedness is much higher in Alaska than it is in Florida. Kind of adds up doesn’t it?
An enormous component of SAD is exposure to sunlight, or lack thereof. Unless you’re a vampire, you need the Sun not only to synthesize vitamin D in your body but to feel alive. It doesn’t take a PhD to recognize how your mood lightens in the sunlight, at least that is the case for most of us, and those of us with SAD don’t get enough exposure to satisfy our need for sunlight in the wintertime. You need both light and dark to keep your circadian rhythm on track but when you get too little of one and not enough of the other, things get out of whack.
The most common approach to managing SAD is to get a good 20 minutes or more exposure to bright natural sunlight every day. Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical because it may be too cloudy or too cold to get outside.
Sitting in a room with all the lights on is generally not enough to recreate natural sunlight but there are lamps designed to mimic natural light and give you a sense of well being. They’re called by different names: light boxes, light lamps, natural spectrum lamps, etc. Just go to Amazon and type in “sad light box” in the search bar and a ton of examples will come up. Due to their popularity, you may also be able to find them in your local department store. Many people swear by these devices and say they reduce or even eliminate their SAD symptoms. You can read the product reviews in Amazon to learn more about them.
- Manage your schedule
As much as your work life allows it, get plenty of sleep but sleep when Mother Nature deems it normal to sleep: night time. Go to bed early enough at night that you can literally get up with the sun and maximize your waking daylight hours.
Also, always go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Sure, it’s OK, even advisable, to sleep in every now and then, but if you have symptoms of SAD and want to minimize them, you’ve got to regulate your internal clock. A sleep pattern with wide swings in the times you go to sleep and get up creates dissonance in your own natural circadian rhythm and exacerbates SAD symptoms.
Yep, you knew this one was coming. If you already have an exercise routine, good, keep it going during the winter months. If you don’t, well there’s no time like the present. We don’t have to get into all the benefits of exercise. They’re already well documented and well known. In terms of depression, particularly SAD, aerobic exercise – running, walking, jogging – tend to have the best neurobiological antidepressant effect.
- Medical Treatment
When all else fails and you recognize a significant downward spiral in mood or sense of well being, please see a doctor. The above three things do wonders for most people, but if your SAD gets out of control and you feel despondent or helpless, please go see a professional.
SAD and Weed
So, if you feel like you have a weed dependence issue, and you have also seen SAD symptoms in yourself in the past, you may be in for a double whammy. Marijuana dependence and SAD have similar symptoms: feelings of depression, decreased desire to socialize, and lack of energy.
Before old man winter really sets in, why not set yourself up for some happiness in the winter months? Following the three tactics above – light therapy, managing your schedule, and exercise – will be less effective if you smoke weed every day.
Maybe one of the reasons you’ve smoked weed in the past is to overcome the winter time blues but if you’re spending time on this website, chances are, you’ve come to realize continuous weed smoking causes the blues too. Life is too short to be depressed, why not go ahead and do something about it now?
If you’re really serious about quitting weed, start by checking out the quitting weed Resources Page, there might be something there that feels right to you.
Here’s to a wonderful winter season for all of us. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, have a happy spring and summer!