Extract: Depression: Understanding the Black Dog #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

May 16th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Psyche Books, Psychology

How we are Affected by the Weather

by Stephanie Sorrell


We should never underestimate the power of seasonal fluctuations to affect the mood and well-being of individuals and groups of people.

Most people are affected by seasonal fluctuations in weather – from the dark oppressive winters to the lengthening days. Group and individual performance is woven through these seasonal and diurnal variations. On a clear, bright day, few people remain unaffected by the presence of sunshine. Living in the UK, where the winter months can be long, dark, wet and oppressive, most people change in the presence of sunshine and become more outgoing. People I haven’t seen for weeks appear from some invisible amphitheatre and smile at each other in a way that they don’t when it is dark and oppressive.

Biologically, our inner climate has been intimately connected to nature’s cycles. It is for this reason that, globally, there is surprising leniency and mitigating factors when the weather can be held to ransom instead. Crimes that are committed in the form of road accidents and temper-fueled incidents when the Mistral blows in Southern France, are treated in a less punitive way. These are known locally as ‘witch winds’, and are believed to contain an abundance of positive ions which affect both mind and body in an adverse way. Not surprisingly, when these ill winds blow, there are more hospital admissions with cardiac, respiratory and psychiatric problems than in more temperate conditions.

In contrast, when ‘negative ions’ are released in the atmosphere after a rainstorm, around running water or by the sea, they can induce a calming, sometimes mildly euphoric effect on the mind and body. We only have to watch children in the school playground when fall or spring winds blow. Their excitement and euphoria is tangible. Farm animals, too, become playful and skittish as do domestic creatures. Interestingly enough, negative ions speed up the rate in which serotonin is oxidized in the blood stream which, in this context, has an important bearing on mood and well-being.

Similarly, stormy, overcast weather affects many people in a negative way and this is usually due to the absence of light which stimulates the pineal gland. This small pea-shaped structure in the mid brain produces light-sensitive cells which increase the production of melatonin in the body enabling us to relax. Natural daylight is vital to our sense of well-being as serotonin, that feelgood factor, production increases. It is good to be aware of this, particularly in the winter months, especially when wearing sunglasses which block this chemical exchange. Additionally, both meditation and sleep complement the production of melatonin.

Norman Rosenthal, a South African psychiatrist, validated the authenticity of Seasonal Depression in the 1980s. He believed that the changing seasons affected many people in an adverse way, destabilizing emotional and psychological equilibrium. Furthermore, he noticed that the seasons affected people with major depression, especially; sometimes sending those affected into an episode of suicidal depression or out-of-control euphoria. We can be grateful for his pioneering work in promoting the importance of ‘light’ treatment for seasonal depression. Among other benefits of light therapy is the therapeutic effect on eczema, psoriasis and jaundice. Similarly, French Philosopher and mathematician, Descartes, referred to the pineal gland as the ‘seat of the soul’ which he describes in his own words:

Playing a decisive role in bodily functions, monitoring the work of the glands and organs, and regulating hormone production. It also controls over-stimulation of the sympathetic nerves to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, thus reducing the impact on the heart. It alleviates mental stress, improves sleep, adjusts the body’s biological clock, relieves jet lag, strengthens immunity, increases the body’s resistance to germs and viruses, and prevents cancer and senile dementia.





Depression: Understanding the Black Dog

 by Stephanie Sorrell

Having suffered from major depression for much of her life, Stephanie Sorrell has learned to work with the disease rather than against it. Where so many mental-health books feature ‘fighting and overcoming‘ depression, her experience and understanding have enabled her to see the value of the condition rather than what it can take away.
In this easy-to-read introduction to depression Stephanie shows the various ways in which it manifests, what is available on a natural as well as chemical level and how the diversity of psychological therapies serve and hold depression. There is also a spiritual thread running through which invites the reader to go further…

  • Paperback £7.99 || $11.95
  • Oct 31, 2014. 978-1-78279-165-2.
  • eBook £6.99 || $9.99
  • Oct 31, 2014. 978-1-78279-174-4.
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