There’s no need to be SAD: How to beat seasonal depression

7 October 2022

As we slip back into our woolly jumpers, the season change can have a negative effect on our mood. The winter blues are also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and can affect everyone differently. Find tips and advice on how to beat SAD
Sunlight streams through the trees in Autumn - getting natural light can help beat SAD

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is usually experienced through the winter months due to the darker, duller and shorter days. The most common theory is that SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight and can stop the hypothalamus part of the brain from working properly.

This can affect the production of melatonin and serotonin which regulate various functions inside our bodies, such as appetite, mood and sleep. The darker months can also disrupt the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) of when to wake up in the morning.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

People with SAD may experience:

  • Low moods
  • Sleeping problems
  • Feeling sad, low, worthless and guilty
  • Gaining weight
  • Tiredness and feeling lethargic
  • Losing interest or pleasure in normal everyday activities

The side effects of SAD can also create a strain on relationships with people at work, friends and loved ones.

Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment and tips

Get more natural light

On the rare occasion that it is bright and sunny outside, make sure you get out in it as much as possible. Indoors, try to give your house as much light as you can. Some people who suffer from seasonal depression purchase dawn simulators that gradually light up your bedroom in the morning. These are good for people who struggle to adapt to the darker mornings.

Balance your diet with plenty of fruit and veg

During colder times of the year, it can be very tempting to indulge in comforting carbohydrates such as pasta and potato. Although this is essential for a balanced diet, fruit and vegetables are just as important. Why not try a hot hearty vegetable soup packed with nutrients? This will help you gain more energy while avoiding gaining weight.

Stay busy and stay positive

The idea of getting into bed and curling up into a warm ball for all of the winter months is tempting. Planning nice things for yourself, whether it’s a baking session or going out for coffee with your friends and family, will help to keep yourself busy and distracted from the SAD symptoms.

Try practising cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of therapy that breaks down problems, negative thoughts or emotions into smaller parts. This is to show how a negative thought can have a knock on effect to how you feel and behave. CBT focuses on your present feelings rather than focusing on issues that have happened in your past.

Once you can recognise a pattern of your negative thoughts and feelings you can then challenge and question them. This can help you change the way you feel about a situation and help you to react differently in the future.

Keep the cold out

No one likes the feeling of being cold whether they are experiencing SAD or not. Staying warm during the cold months will help boost your mood and keep you from feeling low. Try to keep your home at a comfortable 18C – 20°C.

Get professional help

If your symptoms of SAD are significantly disrupting your personal and work life and are making you very unhappy, seek help from your GP. They may be able to prescribe you with antidepressant medication or guide you in the direction of seeking a therapist. You can also contact mental health charities such as Mind or Rethink Mental Health, or refer yourself for NHS Talking Therapy for which treatment can happen in person or over the phone.