Seasonal Affective Disorder – What it is and what can help you feel better

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which typically comes on around the time the darker nights start to draw in in the Autumn. It is thought to affect around 1 in 20 people each year.

The difference between seasonal affective disorder and other forms of depression is that this generally goes away once the winter months are over and the lighter nights come back in Spring.

Seasonal Affective disorder : image of exhausted person asleep on sofa under a blue blanket

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • Changes to mood including low mood/ feeling depressed.
  • Irritability, anger, anxiety.
  • Changes to energy levels and sleeping patterns – sleeping too much in winter or not enough in summer.
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Loss of libido and feeling like retreating from the world
  • Changes of appetite. Having cravings for foods high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates. Weight gain (from eating too many donuts) see above.
  • Being susceptible to every common cold/ cough/illness going
  • Feeling the need to hibernate 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies/pastimes/ feeling like no joy in life
  • Feeling like life is not worth living/ having suicidal thoughts
Seasonal Affective disorder. Lack of light may affect the body's ability to produce melatonin and seratonin, Image of light bulb on a gloomy background

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Whilst the actual cause of seasonal affective disorder is not known, it is thought that there may be a link between lack of light levels and the bodies ability to make the right amount of melatonin and serotonin.

Melatonin is responsible for helping with sleep cycles and serotonin is thought to be linked to mood.

Daylight helps us to know the difference between daytime and nighttime and so is (inevitably) confusing to our circadian rhythms when it is dark at 3pm! 


Things to help you feel better

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD daily walk

Take a morning walk each day

Take a daily morning walk come rain or shine. Having a walk first thing can help your body get back in tune with its circadian rhythm. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD

Enjoy regular Exercise!

Instead of meeting friends for lunch, try meeting them for a takeaway hot chocolate and go for a walk somewhere pretty.

Get plenty of exercise, even if you don’t feel like it. Start slow and build up. Aim for at least 30 mins a day if you can.

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD slow cooker

Eat a varied, delicious and nutritious diet

Plan meals ahead so you’re not left craving donuts and other sugary snacks.

If you have a slow cooker, popping something in for dinner before you go to work can help ensure you are fed something nutritious and delicious each day.

For ideas on how to use a slow cooker click here

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD light therapy

Daylight Bulbs

Buy daylight bulbs for your living room/ office. 

Set a table lamp to come on in your bedroom at the same time each day. If you have a smart plug and a table lamp this can be really easy to set up.

Use a full spectrum bright light or SAD lamp. These can be bought from good electrical retailers and from Amazon

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD vitamin D

Get enough Vitamin D

According to the government most people in the UK have insufficient reserves of Vitamin D to get them through the winter months and it can be difficult to get vitamin D from food and sunlight sources alone.

Speak to your Pharmacist to discuss whether or not having a vitamin D supplement would be right for you and your family. It is important to get the dose right, having too much can be problematic.

Whilst there is inconclusive evidence to link seasonal affective disorder and low levels of vitamin D, having insufficient levels of vitamin D can make your mood drop and your energy levels plummet so it is worth researching.

Related Article:

Seasonal affective disorder what can help? Image of a cosy winter scene with a mug and some fairy lights

Embrace the opportunities the darker nights bring

The darker nights can give you the perfect opportunity to hunker down and do cosy things like read a book or watch a box set, do some crafting, write that novel you’ve been talking of writing, or simply to deeply rest for a while. 

This time of year is perfect for going at a slower pace and just like nature, it is ok to simply regroup and gather strength each evening. Embrace warm baths, early nights, hot chocolates by the fire.

Related article

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD when to get help

When to get help

If you are not coping, speak to your GP. They may be able to prescribe SSRI based antidepressants or refer you for CBT. 

If you feel suicidal or have thoughts of self-harm get urgent medical help

Sarah Cooper
Sarah Cooper

I am a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner and Writer from Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. I love writing about Health and Wellbeing, Mind Body Spirit and Reflexology. When I’m not at work, you can find me in the kitchen cooking up a storm!

If you’d like to book a treatment please go to


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