Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Depression, Featured Article, Mental Health & Sleep Center
on November 30, 2015

Don’t Let Gray Days Get You Down



As the days get shorter and weather gets colder, our mood can take a turn for the worse. That sluggish, down-in-the-dumps feeling known as “the winter blues” (medically termed Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects millions of people each year. Here’s what you need to know about seasonal depression and how to make it through!

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder was first identified in 1984 and is categorized by the same symptoms as depression: appetite changes, loss of energy, problems with sleep, irritability, and problems with concentration. This is due to a drop in serotonin, one of our brain’s key happiness regulators during the fall and winter months. Women are three times more likely to suffer from SAD than men.



Although few people (4-6 percent of the population) are treated clinically for Seasonal Affective Disorder, many people can feel its effects. If you find that you tend to become more sluggish and lack energy during the colder months, here are some things you can do to help.

Fresh Air

Although it is tempting to stay indoors all day when you’re feeling blue, exercise can actually be one of the most effective ways of boosting energy levels. A brisk winter’s walk will leave you with rosy cheeks and higher spirits, or if you prefer to exercise indoors, a fun class can boost your spirits in no time. Aim for 30 minutes each day to beat back those bad feelings.

Woman running in winter, fitness inspiration and motivation


(Light)en Up

Since less exposure to sun is typically one of the main causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder, exposure to sunlight, whether natural or artificial, can help offset its effects. Try to maximize your exposure to sunlight by waking up earlier, going outside, or working near a window. For areas where gray days seem to be in no short supply, an artificial light box, which mimics sunlight, can be effective as well.

SAD Light for Seasonal Depression


The winter blues can hit when you’re least expecting it, but don’t let them put a damper on some of the most wonderful times of the year. Try these tips, and if you’re still feeling down, talk to your doctor about other treatment methods.