HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — As we head towards the winter months, colder weather isn’t the only concern for some people. The lack of sunlight and the holidays can make it a difficult time for many.

Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as seasonal depression, happens during certain seasons of the year. Researchers say most often, people feel the symptoms of depression during the fall and winter months.

While the specific cause remains unknown, many experts believe that shorter days and decreased exposure to sunlight may trigger a chemical change in the brain.

David Barnhart is a licensed counselor and founder of Behavioral Sciences of Alabama.
He says the change in exposure to sunlight can cause us to want to stay inside, but sometimes the best medicine is to get outside.

“If you don’t get exposure to sunlight, that’s a problem. So if it’s seasonal affective disorder then really it’s specifically related to these photoreceptors that we have in our eyes that help manage our circadian rhythm,” said Barnhart.

Barnhart says there is more you can do than getting outside to help relieve the symptoms.

“Sleep is a big deal. It’s one of the things at the top of the list that helps prevent depression, so if you get sleep, you get exercise and nutrition and sunlight helps with all of that, then you decrease the probability you’re gonna have depression by about more than 50%.”

Barnhart advises if the symptoms are prolonged and last over several days, people seek out a healthcare provider or mental health specialist about their concerns.

If you are unsure of where to turn for mental health resources, you can find a list of resources and crisis care centers on the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s website.