See, Winter comes to rule the varied year,
Sullen and sad, with all his rising train—
Vapours, and clouds, and storms. Be these my theme,
These, that exalt the soul to solemn thought
And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms!
—James Thomson, The Seasons: Winter
It’s 4 PM. Uh.. what? It’s 4 PM and it looks like it’s 6 already! Welcome, winter.
And welcome, gloominess.
If you feel down for ‘no reason’ when the winter months kick in, don’t worry. You’re
not alone. In a given year, about 5% of Americans suffer from the winter blues, or
seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Seasonal affective disorder isn’t the same as the temporary low mood we all go
through from time to time. It is a serious mental health condition, with symptoms
similar to major depression, and recurs every year, meaning it has a pattern.
The symptoms of SAD begin to show during the fall, remain throughout the
winter, and begin to improve with the arrival of spring and summer.
What does SAD look like? Here is a list of common symptoms:
Feeling sad and hopeless
Lack of energy
Feeling sleepy even after a full night’s sleep
Changes in appetite
Losing interest in hobbies/past enjoyable activities
Thoughts of suicide
These symptoms can be distressing and make everyday life difficult, affecting
work and personal relationships.
There are a few theories that attempt to explain what causes SAD. There is some
evidence that suggests that our bodies produce more melatonin—a hormone that
promotes sleep at night—during the winters as the days are shorter and darker.
Another theory indicates that lack of sunlight decreases the production of
serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that influences mood. The lack of sunlight
also disrupts our body's circadian rhythm, thereby affecting our sleep, hormones,
While SAD can be quite frustrating, there are several ways to cope with it:
1. Create a routine: Maintaining and following a schedule, which includes a
consistent bedtime and wake up time, before winters begin can positively
affect your mental health. A predictable routine also helps in stabilizing your
internal body clock and prevents sudden mood shifts.
2. Get some sunshine: During the day, get as much sunlight as you can. You
can even go outside for a walk when you need a break. It will allow you to
connect with nature and induce a sense of calm. If you spend a lot of time
working indoors, try to set up your desk near a window and open the blinds
so that you can get plenty of sunlight.
3. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help you beat the blues. It’s hard to
do any kind of intense exercise when you’re always feeling low or sleepy,
which is why we suggest you start with something low-impact like jogging,
cycling, or yoga. Exercise is known to release endorphins—the happy
hormones that lead to positive feelings. Try to exercise for at least 30
minutes each day to combat the symptoms of SAD.
4. Connect with loved ones: The bleakness of winter can make you want to
stay inside all the time and withdraw from social company. This will only
make your mental health worse. Make time to get in touch with friends and
go out on lunch dates or movie nights. Sharing your feelings with a loved
one can help you cope with feelings of loneliness and stress.
If you feel your symptoms are becoming too difficult to cope with or you don’t
have anyone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trained professional such as
a therapist. Therapy can help you navigate your feelings, provide you with a safe
space to talk about what you’re going through, and teach you healthy coping
To speak with one of our licensed therapists, click here.