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Seasonal Affective Disorder Tips: Beating SAD and Winter Sadness

Seasonal Affective Disorder Tips: Beating SAD and Winter Sadness

Smile through the snow this season with these great tips on seasonal affective disorder tips to help with beating SAD.

The idea of a winter wonderland doesn’t always ring true toward the end of the year. Stress from the holidays, minimal amounts of daylight, and harsh weather can amount to tough times for a lot of people, resulting in significant changes to mood and energy.

If you feel like this time of year leaves you struggling to beat winter sadness, or even think you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you’re not alone. In fact, a half a million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder, with 1 in 5 experiencing some form of winter sadness.1 Let’s break down what causes winter blues, as well as some seasonal affective disorder tips to help with beating SAD.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the same way that feeling down is distinct from having depression, experiencing winter blues or winter sadness is distinct from having seasonal affective disorder. A case of winter sadness typically involves a mild to moderate drop in mood, lack of energy, and oversleeping, whereas seasonal affective disorder more closely resembles major depression and can affect one’s ability to function.

Some of the factors responsible for both winter sadness and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) include:

  • A lack of natural sunlight and time outdoors
  • Harsh temperature and weather changes
  • Holiday stress and/or loneliness

With half a million Americans suffering from seasonal affective disorder and up to 20% of us experiencing some form of seasonal sadness, knowing some tried and true seasonal affective disorder tips to help with beating SAD and overall seasonal depression is invaluable.1

Beating SAD Tip #1: Bring the Sunshine Inside with Light Therapy

Happy person in sunlight

One of the most common seasonal affective disorder tips revolves around light. It’s not surprising that shorter days can have a negative effect on our emotional wellness, but the actual reasons why are intriguing. The lessened sunlight in fall and winter can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, causing imbalances in melatonin and serotonin levels.2

The way light therapy helps with beating SAD and winter sadness is incredibly simple. Just sitting with a seasonal depression lamp that emulates the bright light of the sun without the UV rays can help get your body’s natural balance back on track. Studies have shown that symptoms of seasonal affective disorder were alleviated in 70% of patients after a few weeks of light therapy.3 Talk about brightening up your winter!

Beating SAD Tip #2: Supercharge Your Winter Food Selection

People experiencing seasonal affective disorder have a tendency to gain weight.3 This becomes a sort of vicious cycle, where you crave junk food because you feel down, only to feel more lethargic because of it. In this regard, beating SAD and seasonal depression can have a positive impact on other areas of your health.

Choosing certain types of foods can actually help act as a seasonal affective disorder treatment in its own right:

  • Dark Chocolate - Chocolate hardly feels like health food, but the antioxidants in dark chocolate have been linked to improved moods!4
  • Salmon - Salmon is rich in both Omega-3’s and vitamin D. People with higher Omega-3’s were found to be less likely to suffer from seasonal depression and major depression, while vitamin D deficiency is another issue caused by lack of sun.5
  • Yogurt - Yogurt and other fermented foods are full of probiotics. If you caught our article on immune health, you know that good gut bacteria have a big influence on immunity, and research shows that the same appears to be true for mood.6

Beating SAD Tip #3: Turn Positive Thoughts Into Positive Actions

Small changes in behavior can snowball into major moves in the right direction when it comes to beating SAD and seasonal sadness. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has become an increasingly popular seasonal affective disorder treatment, and, while therapy is an invaluable option, those seeking winter sadness tips for milder cases of the winter blues can use some of the same principles.

Both as a seasonal depression treatment and in general, CBT aims to teach people to be their own therapist by getting better at recognizing faulty thought patterns, bad behavioral habits, and their connections to others. Think about how you might gain that type of awareness and improve your thoughts and actions at home:

Person writing in a journal
  • Journal - Getting your feelings onto paper can help you examine them more objectively, in order to help you understand what negative thought patterns need to be worked on as you move toward beating SAD.
  • Be Social - A simple phone call with a friend hardly feels like a seasonal sadness tip, but even something that easy has the potential to spark a chain reaction of good feelings. If you’re comfortable with it, talking out your seasonal affective disorder or seasonal sadness is a great way to gain perspective. For some extra motivation and inspiration, you can also connect with some great people through our Facebook and Instagram communities.
  • Improve Your Mind-Body Connection - The Mayo Clinic recommends engaging in activities such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and music therapy as a piece of seasonal affective disorder treatment strategies.2

If you missed our article on 6 New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Total Wellness, take a look to discover some other great mental health habits that will not only help you with beating SAD, but also come in handy through all of 2021.

Beating SAD Tip #4: Get a Boost From the Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D being nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin” is indicative of the big role it can play as a winter sadness and seasonal affective disorder tip. In fact, that vitamin D deficiency you might be experiencing in the winter months may be related to lower serotonin activity.7

If you’re able to pick up an outdoor wintertime hobby like skiing, ice skating, or even just finding a safe way to take a walk through the snow, you can get that extra bit of sunshine and exercise all at once. However, the quickest way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is by taking supplements and eating foods that are rich in it. In addition to the salmon mentioned earlier, foods like mushrooms, egg yolks, and other fatty fish such as tuna and mackerel pack plenty of the sunshine vitamin to help with beating SAD.

By implementing some or all of these ideas for winter sadness and seasonal affective disorder tips, you can get yourself on the right path to beating SAD and enjoying the season. If you feel like beating seasonal depression is more than just a minor struggle for you, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or psychologist about the seasonal affective disorder treatment path they think is right for you.

Above all, just remember that you’re not the only one feeling down, and that there’s always the option of moving to Florida...


    • “Seasonal Depression (SAD): Symptoms & Treatments.” Cleveland Clinic, 12 Dec. 2016, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9293-seasonal-depression.
    • “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.
    • “Beat the Winter Blues.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 Sept. 2017, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/01/beat-winter-blues.
    • Pase, Matthew P., et al. “Cocoa Polyphenols Enhance Positive Mood States but Not Cognitive Performance: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 27, no. 5, May 2013, pp. 451–458, doi:10.1177/0269881112473791.
    • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Omega 3 Fatty Acids Influence Mood, Impulsivity And Personality, Study Indicates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2006. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060303205050
    • Evrensel, Alper, and Mehmet Emin Ceylan. “The Gut-Brain Axis: The Missing Link in Depression.” Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience : the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology vol. 13,3 (2015): 239-44. doi:10.9758/cpn.2015.13.3.239
    • “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml.

The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any disease.

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