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Daylight, Depression, & A Promise for Wellbeing

By: Klaudia Tryskuc, M.A.

I’m sure you have heard of seasonal sadness which has been identified as a diagnosis in the psychological field as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Is it disorderly to respond to prolonged darkness with sadness? I would argue that this is an adaptive human response - to feel sad and uninspired in the absence of light. Light is an essential component of our cycles of living, it influences our sleep patterns and liveliness. It signals to us that it is time to move and as it sets, we know it is time to rest. This balance is essential to our internal rhythm. So, in the prolonged absence of light, we are faced with a sense of loss and desperation.

Depression is a human experience that touches us all, perhaps some more than others. The point is that we might see that this time of absence might teach us something about our human experience. That depression might be adaptive to what is happening all around us – that it is a natural human response.

In our field and in our common knowledge, we have been indoctrinated to believe that depression is the result of a serotonin deficiency. This has been a convincing hypothesis that has taken a hold of our approach towards mental health care and has influenced how we view and understand our moods – that there is something wrong with our neural composition, that there is something wrong with us.

This has led to the widespread prescription and use of antidepressants, which ironically have actually been found to decrease serotonin over long-term use1.

A recent meta-analysis has shown that we have had this wrong. The research of this study has made it astoundingly clear that there really is no consistent evidence in there being an actual relationship between serotonin and depression[1]. Further, there is no real support that depression is the result of low serotonin.

Recent studies have elucidated a promising solution for attenuating depression that has been suggested to potentially be a better standing treatment in comparison to antidepressants. In one notable study, there is evidence to suggest antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-neurogenic benefits of vitamin D supplementation in those with mood concerns such as depression and anxiety[2]. The effectiveness of the treatment is dependent on the dose of vitamin D used; 50,000-300,000 IU was found most effective over time. It was even found that supplementing vitamin D with common antidepressants was more effective in reducing depression than using an antidepressant alone.

We have long known that sunlight provides us with vitamin D, and so the absence of light suggests an intuitive view of depression that we have looked over. The increase that we see in depression during this time of the year suggests the reality of vitamin D in our mood and wellbeing, a promising movement in mental health treatment.

[1] Kouba, Camargo, A., Gil-Mohapel, J., & Rodrigues, A. L. S. (2022). Molecular Basis Underlying the Therapeutic Potential of Vitamin D for the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 23(13), 7077–. [2] Moncrieff, J., Cooper, R. E., Stockmann, T., Amendola, S., Hengartner, M. P., & Horowitz, M. A. (2022). The serotonin theory of depression: a systematic umbrella review of the evidence. Molecular psychiatry, 1-14.


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