WEST MICHIGAN -- This is the time of year when nights are long and days are short and cloudy.
Therapists say that combination can have a significant, negative impact on our moods. They say 10 percent of people in cold, cloudy climates suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or 'SAD.' Another 20 percent have milder symptoms.
"Some people go really flat. Just like somebody unplugged their battery. Just drained," says Lesley Menhart, a Masters Level Therapist at the Fountain Hill Center for Counseling and Consultation. "Other people tend to feel more agitated. They tend to have difficulty sleeping where they can't fall asleep, or when they do fall asleep it doesn't feel restful."
To fight 'SAD', there are a number of things people can do. Number one, get outside. Even on cold, cloudy days you will still get the effects of the sunshine. Vitamin D supplements can also help, along with medication in some cases.
"Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that helps us regulate our mood," says Menhart. "So when our serotonin levels are low, we tend to feel sluggish, tired, have a poor time making decisions... Just those general depressive type feelings. So sometimes, people actually do need a medication to help manage the seasonal effective disorder when it's really bad."
Therapists say you should talk to your primary care physician before taking supplements or medication.