Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and hasn’t seen it 15 times. So if you’re hoping for an early spring, the odds are not in your favor.
If Phil does see his shadow, you better be ready for another six weeks of icy roads, gray skies and cold weather. And as the cold winter drags on, many people find themselves experiencing irritability, decreased energy and changes in appetite that last from now until spring. These symptoms make up what is commonly known as the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
In the United States and Canada, only 5 to 10 percent of the population suffers from SAD. However, the percentage varies according to specific areas: Florida has a 2 percent chance of suffering from SAD while Vermont has a 12 to 15 percent chance.
Researchers have been studying the relationship between the weather and temperament since the early 1970s—ironically about the same time as B.J. Thomas first sang the hit song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
Studies have shown that the farther away from the equator you are, the higher your chances are of getting SAD. Also, your risks increase in the winter, sometime between December and February.
Scientists believe darkness, detected by the small glands in the brain called the pineal, releases melatonin, a chemical that regulates your sleep patterns and mood. If too much melatonin is released, the circadian rhythm, the biological clock, gets out of whack and can lead to depression and fatigue. On the other hand, when light is detected, serotonin, a chemical that produces happiness hormones, takes over.
Though the chances of suffering from SAD are rare in the United States, many people admit they feel a bit sluggish in the winter. So if you find yourself surrounded by the winter blues, here are a few tips that can help put some sunshine back in your step:
Go for a Walk
Get outside and take a deep breath of fresh air as you walk around the block. It’s not only good for you physically, but as you let the sunshine soak into your skin, you start feeling emotionally better as well.
Do Things That Make You Feel Good
Read a good book; take your family sledding or go for a stroll in the park. Just spend some time doing activities that make you feel good about yourself. It can give you the boost you need to help you get your feet on the ground again.
Use Light Therapy
If your schedule doesn’t allow you to get outside as often as you’d like, you could start your day off with light therapy. The most common light therapy involves using a light box. Light therapy is as effective as antidepressant medications, said Ritsaert Lieverse, lead author in a new, carefully designed randomized controlled trial and psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in New York. Set up a light box in your home or office and sit at it for 30 to 60 minutes each day.
Whatever the prediction year after year, don’t let Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction give you the winter blues. Keep your head up and remember B.J. Thomas’s lyrics: “The blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me. It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me.”