It’s not escaped anyone’s minds recently that the days are getting shorter, darker and colder. This can affect many of us in different ways- from difficulty waking up in the morning, lethargy and colds, to generally feeling a little under the weather. For some of us though, it can cause a more noticeable shift.

What is SAD?

1 in 3 of us suffer from it in the winter months, and women are 40% more likely to suffer from it than men. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also referred to as ‘ winter depression’, can vary, ranging from a noticeable lack of energy and a low self esteem, all the way through to chronic depression and anxiety.

How can you treat it?

The most recognised treatment in more serious cases is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and also antidepressants- but there are other things that you can do to make a difference. For many of us it’s just about making the small changes in our daily lifestyle. Here are some of our favourite ways to help tackle that winter depression!

  1. Make sure you are eating plenty of nutrients!

    The diet that you have is proven to have a direct affect on your mood levels and general health. To help to support your immune system in the colder months, make sure that you are eating a plethora of plant based nutrients. The general rule of thumb is to make sure that you have plenty of colourful vegetables on your plate. A green bell pepper has different health properties than a red bell pepper for example. By having a mix of colours you are covering all bases and giving your immune system the best possible chance at fighting off those winter colds!

  2. Vitamin D

    Also known as the sunshine vitamin, it’s something that most of us are deficient in over the darker months. Many people swear by vitamin D supplements, although sometimes simply getting outside on your lunch break to get some time in the winter sun can make all the difference. Make it a regular practice. You can also get various almond and soy products (milks, yoghurts, cereals etc) that are fortified with it.

  3. Exercise

    Exercising is known to release happy chemicals in your brain. Fact. It’s also been known to boost energy levels, improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase confidence. We know it can be hard finding the motivation to do exercise in the morning when it’s still dark outside. Check out our post on motivation, coming soon, for some top tips on how to combat this. If you really aren’t a morning person,  perhaps try getting out on your lunch break for a run, or even a power walk through the park. That way you’re getting that all important vitamin D too! If this seems a bit ambitious- perhaps start by just walking or cycling to or from work each day- getting those endorphins pumping is a really effective way of combating SAD.

  4. Get an early night!

    The majority of us don’t get enough sleep at night. Sleep is not only important for cell repair and keeping our immune system functioning well, but quality sleep is also essential for combatting that lethargy in the darker months. Sleep deprivation is commonly linked to mental wellbeing, too. It has been estimated that as many as 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Make sure you are getting to bed early enough folks- and aim for 8 hours minimum! Try to go an hour before bed without screens, lay off the green tea (and coffee obviously!) in the evening, and start that early bedtime habit today! Once you get into the groove of it you will find you’ll naturally want to be in bed earlier, and being more in tune with the winter light patterns will help you immensely with any SAD symptoms you may be experiencing. We are not ashamed to say that we are huge fans of a 10pm curfew!

  5. Purchase a SAD lamp or a dawn simulating alarm clock.

    People with SAD have an excess of SERT (a serotonin transporting protein) during the winter months. SAD lamps (purpose built artificial bright light boxes) are known to help balance this out in about 85% of cases. It's thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood). You can also get hold of special alarm clocks that simulate the sunrise to sync with your morning routine and make waking up in the darker months much easier. One of the best known brands for clocks of this kind is Lumie- check out our favourite here.

  6. Keep a ‘mindfulness journal’

    This can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. If you are strapped for time, simply listing three things each day that you are grateful for can be a great way to start. Using an actual happiness journal however can be a great way to log your mood patterns and help you to understand what triggers your symptoms, as well as allowing you some allocated time each day for positive reflection. It is also a great way to help you to focus in on your goals and stay motivated. If old school paper isn’t your thing, there are many apps available that work on the same principle! We are going to write a whole post about this, so stay tuned!

  7. Try changing your light bulbs

    Try changing your regular household bulbs to a brighter 35 watt 6500K CFL bulb, like this one. This brighter and more natural light can help to simulate daylight.

  8. Try some restorative yoga

    Yoga poses that help to improve circulation, open the heart chakra and release stress and tension will help to alleviate symptoms of SAD and re-balance brain chemistry. In the winter months, try to make a daily practice of doing a series of sun salutations. Focus on back bending postures that will open up your chest when you can. Bow pulling pose is great for this. If you’re looking to take this a little further, we love Gaia for an amazing selection of online guided yoga practices for all levels.

  9. Book a long weekend break!

    Not possible for everyone we know, but if you have some spare cash come winter then there are plenty of places in Europe that (although the temperatures may still be a little on the cool side) have sun all year round. Morocco is another great destination as flights can be found for super cheap and it’s a comfortable temperature all year round! Check out Skyscanner for the cheapest flights, or sign yourself up to Jack’s Flight Club for mega cheap flight alerts.

Thanks for tuning in :)


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