Seasonal Depression: 3 Suggestions to Help You Overcome It

During the long winter months, it's normal to feel down. However, you could also be suffering from seasonal depression.
Seasonal Depression: 3 Suggestions to Help You Overcome It

Last update: 11 March, 2021

Many people feel that their mood and energy levels fall when the coldest months of the year arrive. This phenomenon is known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and is well known by mental health professionals. A less severe form is called the winter blues.

Seasonal depression is a type of depression that can appear around the end of fall or the start of winter. It’s possible to suffer from it during spring or summer as well, but it’s most common during the coldest months.

It’s estimated that SAD affects larger portions of the population the further north you go, according to a study published in the magazine Depression Research and Treatment. Women between 18 and 35 years old are at a higher risk.

It also affects people who live at high latitudes more. That’s a sign that daylight hours have a lot to do with the origin and ongoing cause of the disorder.

The principal treatment method for SAD is light therapy. That is, the person is exposed to artificial light similar to sunlight. However, that may not always be enough, and other treatment options may also be needed. Below we’ll take a closer look at seasonal depression and some suggestions that may help you overcome it.

What does seasonal depression involve?

This disorder has many symptoms in common with other depressive disorders. For instance, a lack of interest in most things, intense sadness, and a lack of motivation to get going in the morning. But it also has some different symptoms, such as the following:

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day.
  • Cravings for foods, especially foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugar.
  • Weight gain.
  • Feelings of tiredness and a lack of energy.
A man looking out the window.

What about the causes? Well, one of the most frequent causes is a simple lack of sunlight. This makes serotonin levels drop in the body, which is a hormone that positively influences your mood. However, as with any affective disorder, there’s not just one single cause that can explain it.

With that in mind, here’s another factor that could help to explain how SAD starts. During winter, there are fewer opportunities to be outside in the fresh air and fewer social activities.

How to overcome seasonal depression

To overcome seasonal depression, it’s very important to realize what aspects are within your control and which ones aren’t. You can’t control time or seasons, but you can control the activities you do each day.

1. Do physical exercise daily

The fact that physical exercise is effective to help combat psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety is well documented. If you suffer from SAD, an active lifestyle should be a priority.

Regarding the above, according to a study published in the Clinical Medicine Magazine, physical exercise, even if it’s low intensity, can reduce the risk (up to) 41 percent of suffering from a psychological disorder. Also, as you increase the intensity or regularity of the exercise sessions, you’ll up the positive effects further still.

2. Express your feelings to a close friend

When someone is sad, they tend to isolate themselves and separate themselves from their circle of friends. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from others every now and then to find yourself. However, it’s not at all helpful to shut yourself away and block your feelings over a long time.

Expressing negative emotions to others in a controlled way is very therapeutic. This can allow you to put into words all the exhausting and disagreeable feelings that your circumstances cause. If you do that, it’ll help you to organize and put into perspective any emotion.

3. Looking after your diet is also important

One of the symptoms of SAD is a preference for unhealthy food. Succumbing to these cravings can be damaging in other ways. For instance, you might start to put on weight, and that could contribute still further to emotional stress.

Taking care of your diet is especially important in wintertime.

For that reason, especially during the ‘at risk’ time in winter, it’s important to make an extra effort to look after yourself. That includes healthy habits in all aspects of your life: diet, exercise, personal hygiene, and social relationships.

Speaking of your diet, here are some specific foods you can include. Foods that are rich in tryptophan, such as dairy products, nuts, or poultry meat, are especially beneficial. These will help to increase serotonin and melatonin levels, which contribute to a better night’s sleep.

As the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Wintertime is a season when it can be difficult to be optimistic. The weather is cold and bleak, the days are shorter and it’s difficult to make plans to be out in the open air. But that doesn’t mean that your mood has to be a reflection of the season.

The increased isolation that wintertime can cause can be a marvelous opportunity to connect with your deepest inner self. Making that extra effort to look after yourself, try new activities or start making some personal changes you’ve thought about are just some examples of how you could take advantage of winter.

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  • Bayego, E. S., Vila, G. S., y Martínez, I. S. (2012). Prescripción de ejercicio físico: indicaciones, posología y efectos adversos. Medicina clínica, 138(1), 18-24.
  • Gatón Moreno, M. A., González Torres, M. Á., y Gaviria, M. (2015). Trastornos afectivos estacionales,” winter blues”. Revista de la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría, 35(126), 367-380.