Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you feel depressed, lethargic and disinterested when the days get shorter and colder? During the throes of winter, many who live far north of the equator and see colder temperatures and less sunshine throughout the year can suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Learn how to fight it if you’re experiencing symptoms.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depressive disorder and a sub-type of major depression that comes with seasonal changes particularly in winter. Those who suffer from SAD endure symptoms that start in the fall and last through the winter before they improve in the spring. According to the American Psychiatric Association roughly five percent of North Americans suffer from SAD. Women are more likely to experience it than men.

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Strategies for Overcoming SAD

The symptoms of SAD can be very difficult for people to deal with, but thankfully, they can overcome it in many ways – without having to move somewhere warmer.

Talk to Your Doctor

First, you should talk to your doctor if you think you have SAD or are suffering from its symptoms. If it is SAD, your doctor can offer guidance or refer you to a cognitive behavioral therapist who will work more closely with you in dealing with your specific symptoms.

Light Therapy

Light therapy is one of the most common treatment options for those with SAD. Symptoms are generally linked to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain due to shorter daylight hours in the winter. Getting as much natural sunlight as possible is often the best medicine; but the sun doesn’t always come out during the winter. Other light therapy strategies include exposing yourself to a lightbox – also known as a phototherapy box that mimics sunshine. You can find affordable lightboxes online. You only need to use them for 20-30 minutes a day.

Exercise Outside When Possibl

Fresh air, natural vitamin D and exercise are excellent strategies for combatting SAD symptoms. Exercising outside achieves all of them. While you may dread the outside, embracing the cold with outdoor exercise is excellent for your mental and physical health. Even daily walks are useful – or consider picking up a wintertime hobby like ice skating or cross-country skiing.

Stimulate Your Senses

The depressive symptoms of SAD can feel like your senses are dull, so stimulating them is a good way to give your system a jolt. Lighting incense scents to beat the winter blues is a great way to introduce lighter and more pleasing fragrances to your home. Also consider creating a joyful playlist that puts your mind in the frame of spring and summer.


If you suffer from any symptoms of SAD, talk to your doctor immediately and come up with a plan to overcome your depressive feelings and reinvigorate your mental health during the winter doldrums.

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