Integrative Nutrition Blog

Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Here’s How to Improve Your Mood

December 7, 2016

Image via Shutterstock

Do you find yourself less motivated lately? Wanting to sleep longer or just spend more time on the couch under a fuzzy blanket? Yes, it’s that time of year.

It’s totally normal to feel the winter blues to some extent. But there is a difference between feeling a little sluggish and experiencing depression. In both cases, there is something you can do to improve your mood. First assess the issue and then experiment with ways to feel better until you find your bio-individual remedy.

What are the winter blues?
This is a seasonal condition brought on by shorter days, more time spent indoors, and a lack of love for the bitter chill of winter. Our bodies get less access to natural light in the winter, and that affects our circadian rhythms and hormonal balance. With darkness creeping in at earlier times, our bodies release melatonin (the sleep hormone) and that leaves us feeling zapped of energy.

If you’ve got it: you’re likely to feel a little more tired, less motivated to participate in frequent activities, and kind of just…well, blue, even if life if going just fine otherwise.

What you can do:

  1. Step outside during mid-day sun whenever possible.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Eat fresh, wholesome, colorful food.
  4. Have plants at your workspace.
  5. Listen to upbeat music.
  6. Plan your next vacation.
  7. Spend time connecting with people you love.
  8. Do things that make you happy. 

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
This is similar to the winter blues, but in some ways more serious. It is a clinical diagnosis that may require more than self-motivation and time outdoors. While it often begins during the fall when the days start getting shorter, some with SAD have a reverse pattern of symptoms starting in the spring or summer.

If you’ve got it: you may feel extreme exhaustion, trouble sleeping, changes in weight or appetite, trouble concentrating, negative thoughts, and a yearning to withdraw from social life.

What you can do: If your symptoms are severe you should consult a doctor. Some studies have shown that spending 30 minutes a day in front of a light box can greatly reduce SAD symptoms, or cognitive behavior therapy might help. 

When we take our health into our own hands we often find ways to regain balance and feel our best. Sometimes that means taking individual action to lead a healthy lifestyle, while other times it requires acknowledging that a little support could go a long way.

Whatever you do just remember that seasonal effects are just that, seasonal! It won’t last forever and spring will be here before we know it.

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