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How to cope with winter blues in San Luis Obispo, the “happiest city in America"

January 9 storm in San Luis Obispo.
Photo by Amanda Wernik
A foggy day in San Luis Obispo. (January 9, 2023)

What happens when it gets dark earlier in the “happiest city in America”? With the end of daylight savings, many in San Luis Obispo may start to feel the “winter blues.”

With less sunlight in the afternoon and overall shorter days, some people don’t feel like their usual selves.

Yesenia Mora is a marriage and family therapist with San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health. She said during this time of year, more people are coming in with the winter blues.

“Some people come in reporting that they're having trouble sleeping– they're just feeling more sad,” Mora said.

Sunlight affects circadian rhythms and hormone levels. Shorter days can throw people off, leading to depressive symptoms like losing interest in daily activities and low energy levels.

In severe cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, causes significant life disruptions– think losing a job or a relationship.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal is the author of Defeating SAD: A Guide to Health and Happiness Through All Seasons.

“Getting more light, especially to replace the missing light, is very helpful,” Rosenthal said.

Natural ways include waking up earlier or going outside more during the day. There’s also artificial light therapy, which mimics the sun.

Other treatments include counseling and medication.

The SLO County Behavioral Health Department offers mental health treatments like talk therapy.

“Talking to somebody else about how you're feeling is a great way to improve your mood and obviously get support,” Moda said.

You can go to slocounty.ca.gov for the behavioral health hotline.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. During her time at Cal Poly, she worked as a news anchor for KCPR Radio and as an intern for the CJ Silas Show on ESPN Radio. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.