Seasonal affective disorder: How to beat the winter blues

Winter’s wrath is fast approaching as evidenced by the waning autumnal light. If you’re like me, the dark drive into work and on the way home from work ushers in a sense of gloominess and melancholy.  Knowing that it’s only the beginning of December and that such dark drives will be a part of my life for the next few months only reinforces a sense of despair that operates quietly in the background of my thoughts (sigh).

Winter blues got you down?

But it’s not just the dark drive to work that brings me down. It’s the gray overarching skies for months on end. It’s the monochromatic hue that taints and touches everything in sight. Gone are the blue skies and vibrant colors of spring, summer and even fall. In their absence, all seems more subdued, less alive, languishing, myself included.

Hopelessness. Unhappiness. Sluggishness. Can anyone else relate to these feelings this time of year? These are just a few of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the US National Library of Medicine, additional symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased sleep
  • Less energy and ability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability

Sound familiar? Like someone you know or even yourself? It’s ok to admit it, and you are definitely not alone. Twenty percent of us, primarily in northern climes, are affected by either SAD or a lesser form of it simply known as the ‘winter blues.’ In fact, the more northerly one lives, the more impact SAD has.

There are some remedies, though, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will. “Light therapy” has been shown to be helpful. There are three things  to keep in mind when taking in a “dose” of light therapy:

  • Light intensity – treatment employs an artificial equivalent of early a.m. daylight
  • Light duration – daily sessions between 20 to 60 minutes may be required
  • Time of day of exposure – your circadian rhythmic clock is key in this process and depends upon the individual

The Center for Environmental Therapeutics offers self assessment tools and products that can help you beat the winter blues. However, if your winter blues turn darker and significantly impact your daily life, make sure to contact your behavioral or mental health professional for advice.


Photo credit: Vermin Inc

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  1. Thanks for the guide on purchasing a light therapy box, Lisa. I will be buying one of these for my husband for Christmas, so this will help! I also find that maintaining my exercise routine throughout the winter months really helps. I love to cross-country ski and will force myself to bundle up and get out there for a run. I think the fresh air goes a long way too. It’s hard to push yourself to get out there, but the results are worth it!

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