Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known by the acronym SAD, is a form of depression that affects an individual only during the winter. Affecting more than half a million Americans, SAD usually begins in late fall, early winter (when the weather becomes colder and the nights longer) and goes away sometime during the spring.

What Are the Symptoms of SAD?

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • decreased energy
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

How is SAD Treated?

While the exact causes of SAD remain unclear, it is treatable. If your symptoms are mild (not interfering with your daily life), there are several natural methods for beating seasonal affective disorder, which will enable you to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you during the cold months of winter.


Try to keep physically active during the winter. While you may not feel up to strength or cardio training, adopting an exercise regimen can be very effective in lifting your mood and in turn, increasing your energy levels. According to the National Institute of Health, 30 minutes of exercise for ten consecutive days was enough to produce a significant reduction in depression.

Eat Well

People suffering from SAD often crave starchy, salty or sweet foods, which can make them feel worse. A healthy diet, consisting of lots of lean proteins, fresh fruit, and leafy greens is important. Furthermore, consuming Omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild-caught salmon, flaxseed and hemp have shown to alleviate mild and moderate symptoms of SAD. Some people find taking extra vitamin D or B12 supplements helpful.


Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential (natural) oils to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy is an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, headaches, pain reduction and so much more. Bergamot, lemongrass, and clary sage are all good choices. To help you sleep, add a few drops of lavender to a bath, oil diffuser or pillowcase.

Light Therapy

Light therapy has been found to be highly effective at treating seasonal affective disorder. This is because it increases your exposure to light during the winter. There are two forms of light therapy: light boxes for at home remedies and bright light therapy supervised by a medical professional. The latter, however, may not be available in all areas. Your general practitioner should be able to advise you to services in your area.

Consider Herbal Remedies

According to recent studies, St. John’s Wort is a popular herbal remedy that helps to increase the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin in some people. However, it is not to be used in combination with light therapy, as it can make your skin very sensitive. You should also seek advice from your general practitioner or pharmacist before using it as it may interfere with other medications.

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