Seasonal Depression: What Is It & How To Combat It

If the short, dark days of winter make you feel less energetic, and a bit down in the dumps, it’s natural (and it’s called the winter blues). But if you find that your winter blues are becoming more regular, or daily, it could be that you’re suffering from a case of the SADs.

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that generally occurs in the late fall and throughout winter, when there is less sunshine, and the days are shorter and colder.

It’s more common in women, and in countries that are further away from the equator. And it’s simply caused by the lack of sunlight. According to studies, sunlight has been found to enhance our mood via our hormones. With less sunlight, our bodies create less melatonin, the hormone that signals when it’s time to sleep. Serotonin, a hormone that influences mood, appetite, and sleep, can also be affected by a lack of sunlight. And of course, with less sunlight, your body clock is often thrown out of whack, which also impacts your mood.

Depressed woman in shock or grief crying at home alone feeling sad with winter blues seasonal affective disorder.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling of sadness
  • Serious mood changes
  • Over-eating, particularly carbs
  • Loss of interest in fun activities
  • Loss of libido
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping too much

What Can You Do About SAD?

If you’re experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, there’s good news. It is treatable and the treatments can be simple solutions.

Get More Light In Your Day

Find creative ways to get more sunlight. Whether that means you move your desk into an area of the house where you can sit in the sun, sit next to a window at work, or you simply force yourself outside in the cold, when the sun is high to sit for 30-60 minutes.

If that fails, try phototherapy, or daily light therapy. This is a device with white fluorescent light tubes covered by a plastic screen that inhibits UV rays is used to deliver light therapy. These boxes come in a variety of intensities, ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 lux, and by sitting there for 30 minutes a day, you may find your mood improves.

Head Outdoors

In winter, we tend to prefer to hibernate than to hit the gym, and unfortunately, this is where many of us go wrong. Try to still get out and exercise. If you can’t do the gym, just take yourself on a walk each day (weather permitting) and bask in some sunlight. By moving your body, you’re promoting positive brain chemistry and enhancing the amount of serotonin your body produces – the happy chemical! You don’t have to walk for hours, but even just 15 minutes in your lunch break will help you to combat SAD.

Watch Your Food

Eating right is also crucial. Lack of sunlight leads to carb cravings, which in turn dampens your mood and leads to weight gain, and that winter “frumpy” feeling. The frumpier you get, the more depressed you will feel. Instead, stick to meals that are high in protein. These will keep you full for longer. Eggs, chicken salad, and fruit are all good foods to include in your diet.

Generally, it doesn’t take a lot of work to lift your mood, but if you’re trying all of the above, and you still find that your symptoms are prominent, get in touch with a professional to discuss.