Just this week a few of our clients have mentioned their mood has dropped as a result of the cooler weather in Perth recently. When we talk about low mood, there are several things people start to experience. They feel flat and tired, lack energy and motivation, lose interest and enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities, withdraw socially and have problems with memory and concentration. Many people will say they find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
When a person’s mood drops, they start to become pessimistic in their thinking process. Often, they become quite critical of themselves (and others), the world and the future. This can happen quite gradually. What also tends to occur when people feel low is that they stop doing things. They tend to stop exercising, socialising and scheduling pleasant activities.
There is evidence to suggest that the weather has a direct impact on our mood. Anecdotally, people tend to be happier when the sun is out. There is a belief that our mood is linked with the availability of sun light. For example, in the UK where there is minimal sun light in the winter months, many people report low or depressed mood. Some of the treatments for this involve exposing affected people to bright lights for large portions of the day. Interestingly this has shown to improve depressive symptoms.
What we often prescribe to clients during the cooler and darker months of the year is to do the opposite of what the low mood advocates. When the individual doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, we encourage them to do the opposite and to get out of bed. When the person feels like not exercising, we encourage exercise. When the individual doesn’t feel like going out, we encourage them to go out and socialise. It is often this activity of doing the opposite that can lead to improvement in mood.
One of the most important things we teach clients is how to be aware of their thinking process, particularly if they are feeling low or depressed. We know a person’s thought process is intricately linked with how they feel so if they can understand the link between their thoughts, feelings and behaviour this can be important in addressing low mood. We have more control over our thinking process than many people realise and this is one of the fundamental components of counselling for low or depressed mood.