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Thrive | Mental Health

More than Winter Blues: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Winter may be a time for festive celebrations, but the season of great tidings leaves many feeling low. It’s natural to feel down during those colder months. For some, however, these ‘winter blues’ can make it difficult to live everyday life. This is known as seasonal affective disorder – an offset of depression that only manifests during particular seasons. Usually, this is during the winter.

What causes it?

The exact cause of SAD remains unclear. One possible cause is the reduced hours of sunlight during the winter months. Light plays a role in the functioning of a part of the brain which controls mood, sleep, and appetite. When there is less light outside, this part of the brain stops functioning as well.

How can I recognise it?

The symptoms of SAD are similar to the symptoms of depression, except SAD only occurs during particular seasons.

If you have SAD, you may experience:

  • Lack of energy.
  • A persistent low mood.
  • Problems sleeping – you may sleep more than you normally would.
  • Overeating, or comfort eating.
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy.

What can I do about it?

If the winter blues are beginning to affect your day-to-day life, you should speak to your GP about how you’re feeling. There are also things you can do to help relieve some of your symptoms.

Get outdoors

Soak up all the natural sunlight you can during the winter! Even a short walk outside can make you feel better.

Consider buying a lightbox

For some people with SAD, using a light box can help to improve their mood. A lightbox is a device fitted with a very bright bulb which simulates sunlight. These lights have been found to be helpful for those with SAD as it helps to increase their exposure to light during the dark winter months.

Eat well

Many people with SAD crave carbohydrates such as pasta and potatoes. Try to keep a balanced diet and incorporate some fruit and vegetables into your meals.

For further support and advice, check out NHS or Mind

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