How to Beat Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

How to Beat Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition in which individuals experience increased depression during winter months. Sufferers of SAD often experience these depression cycles at the same time each year. The onset of symptoms of SAD is often during fall and progresses throughout the winter months. How to Beat Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Common symptoms of SAD:

  • Chronically depressed mood
  • Disinterest in activities that would normally bring pleasure
  • Feelings of Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt or lack of self-worth
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeping more than normal especially during daytime hours
  • Sugar cravings that result in notable weight gain

Sufferers of SAD can experience some or all of these symptoms during the winter and holiday months. These symptoms are often severe and can pose a serious threat to day to day functionality of the afflicted individual.

Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Like many mood disorders, the exact causes of SAD are not yet completely understood. However, a link has been observed between SAD and the reduction of sunlight exposure during the shortened days of winter.
Behavioral scientist theorizes that this lack of sunlight negatively affects the region of the brain called the hypothalamus, which can potentially lead to serious consequences:

  • Increased Melatonin Production- Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone. The bodies of individuals suffering from SAD may produce this hormone in excess.
  • Serotonin Deficiency- Mood, appetite and sleep cycles are all regulated by Serotonin levels. The absence of sunlight can lead to the lowering of Serotonin levels in individuals with SAD.
  • Disrupted Circadian Rhythm- The body’s internal clock is known as the Circadian Rhythm. This clock is controlled by the sun and can become disrupted in periods of low levels of sunlight.

Relief for Sufferers Of SAD

The outlook for sufferers of SAD is not all bleak. The simple implementation of just a few lifestyle modifications can prevent or eradicate the winter blues:
1. Get Moving
Science has proven that 20 minutes of exercise performed a minimum of four times a week has the ability to reduce the effects of depression. The type of exercise an individual chooses to engage in is not as important as being diligent in performing scheduled workouts.
Bicycling, jogging, or a weight-lifting program at the local gym are just a few of the many exercises that will prove beneficial to depression prevention.
2. Get Out of Bed
Increased darkness in early morning hours may seem like an invitation to get more sleep; especially for sufferers of SAD. It is best to decline this invitation, however, as it is pertinent to adhere to a regular schedule of sleep when combatting depression.
A routine wake-up time and bedtime should be established and followed on weekdays and weekends alike. When beginning a routine for the first time it may take a couple of weeks to get used to, so patience may be needed.
3. Don’t Forget to Laugh
Laughter has been clinically proven to induce brain processes that oppose symptoms of depression. Movies, internet videos, and time spent with friends and family are a few suggestions for finding a source of amusement that will provide a much-needed dose of laughter.
4. Plan A Quick Getaway
The anticipation from an individual having something special to look forward to can provide a lift from depression. Individuals can provide this lift for themselves by planning mini vacations. Getaways do not have to be elaborate or expensive. A day at a nearby beach with friends, a tour of a popular tourist attraction in a neighboring town, or a ticket to the concert of a favorite performer can all provide the needed anticipation to rejuvenate the mood of depressed individuals.
5. Eat for Happiness
The food that is consumed can have a great impact on one’s mood and ability to cope with depression. A few food tips that will help in your fight against the winter blues are:

  • Pass on The Sugar- Sugar may provide an immediate burst of energy at times but a UCLA study demonstrated that over-consumption of sugar can slow down brain function.
  • Get Enough Omega 3- Mood improvement is one of the many benefits of eating foods that contain Omega 3s.
  • Eat Berries- Berries effectively inhibit the release of cortisol, a hormone produced in the adrenal gland in response to stress.
  • Dark Chocolate- Chocolate has always been a source of comfort for those experiencing down times. Science has now endorsed this choice with reports that polyphenols present in dark chocolate do indeed promote healthy moods.
  • Vitamin D- The sunshine vitamin has been known to lift the spirits of the depressed individual with as little as 10 minutes of sun exposure. Dietary sources of Vitamin D are eggs, milk, and fish that have bones. Supplementation is also recommended to get the vitamin D needed to combat the winter blues.
  • Start A New Hobby
    Indulging oneself in a new hobby can be just what the doctor ordered when dealing with SAD. Choose an activity that will be both enjoyable and allow for periods of complete consumption of thoughts and energy. In a short while, the relief from the emotional and physical effects of depression can be realized.
  • Find or Create Sunshine
    Many sufferers of SAD live where darkness prevails both during morning commutes to work and once leaving work. It is important for these individuals to find ways to spend some time in the sun if possible. One possible suggestion is to spend lunch breaks walking outside.
    When natural sunlight cannot be incorporated into a daily schedule it may be necessary to invest in a full-spectrum light box. Though this solution can be one that is pricey, light therapy has proved beneficial for providing relief for sufferers of depression. It may also be a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before using these tools.
  • A Trip to The Doctor
    Symptoms of depression can sometimes be part of a larger problem. If despite the best efforts of an individual to address the problems of SAD, the symptoms persist, it may time to seek the help of qualified personnel.


The winter season can often begin a time of torment for individuals suffering from SAD. It is not necessary, however, for individuals stricken with SAD to live the holiday season in misery. The implementation of just a few of the above suggestions can transform the holiday season for SAD sufferers into the joyous time of year that it should be.

How to Beat Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

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How to Beat Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder

About the Author

Jeff Dailey

Jeff has been the CEO of for 12 years. has grown under Jeff’s leadership, in fact when the website was first launched, the member base grew form Zero to over 700,000 in less the 3 years.  Current, has over 1,600,000 registered members.

Jeff received his MBA degree in Managerial Finance and Investor Relations from the University of Phoenix and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Corporate Finance and Accounting from California State University, Fullerton.

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