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SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the New Year can be especially challenging for a small section of the population who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Sometimes referred to as 'Winter Depression', estimates range from 3-5% of clinically diagnosed cases in the UK. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that number could be much higher, and its likely that many people will notice a shift in their mood during the dark, winter months.

Although it is still not well understood, the NHS defines the symptoms of SAD as:

  • a persistent low mood

  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities

  • irritability

  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day

  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning

  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

It is believed these symptoms are caused primarily by the lack of sunlight. Our bodies need sunlight to help us regulate our body clock (circadian rhythym), and a lack of sunlight can also cause excessive production of melatonin, which can make us feel sluggish and excessively sleepy. It also inhibits seratonin, the 'happy hormone', which can cause low moods and feelings of hopelessness.

For those who are struggling with severe symptoms, we urge you to contact your GP and seek medical advice. However, for the rest of us who might not feel severely impacted enough to wish to seek out medical intervention, but our looking for some ways we can manage our symptoms ourselves, then here are some tips.

1. Vitamin D Supplements

Our bodies can only produce adequate amounts of vitamin D if we are exposed to enough sunlight. For those of us living in northern latitudes, this simply isn't possible over winter. Therefore, taking a daily vitamin D supplement can be beneficial in boosting our moods as well as bolstering our immune systems and helping to ward off seasonal illnesses like the cold and flu, as well as more serious diseases like COVID-19.

2. Light Therapy

There are special lamps that mimic the rays of the sun which are being used to simulate exposure to sunlight. These differ from sun beds (which can be harmful to the body by increasing the risk of skin cancer) and early research suggests promising evidence that they may be an effective tool in combating SAD. If you decide to purchase one of these lamps, please make you are buying an authentic Light Therapy Box and not a cheap lamp that has been cleverly marketed as such.

3. Lifestyle Changes

It goes without saying that the more exposure the sunlight you get, the less likely you are to be badly affected. Making the effort to get outside when possible to exercise will undoubtedly benefit those of us who are suffering from SAD or SAD-like symptoms. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult for those of us who work in offices or simply are not able to get outdoors as much as we'd like, either due to mobility issues or where we live.

4. Hypnotherapy

Yes. You knew it was coming. Hypnosis can be a wonderful tool when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of SAD. By reducing additional stressors that compound Winter Depression, as well as rewiring the subconscious brain to create behaviours that will reduce symptoms even further, hypnotherapy can help you tackle the bleak winter months and have you feeling right as rain again. Want to find out more? Email

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