Seasonal Affective Disorder: How Time-of-Year Affects Mood

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise referred to as SAD, is a condition that is brought on by lack of sunlight. The symptoms can cause feelings of depression and for some it can be quite extreme. This leaves the sufferer with the inability to lead a full life in the dark months of winter.


Unsurprisingly, the disorder mostly affects people who experience extreme seasonal changes. The majority of sufferers tend to be living in the north of Europe, where an estimated 12 million people sufferer from the disorder.


During the winter the light is low and grey and days are shorter. This is when the symptoms are most prevalent. Once the springtime arrives, the sufferer feels returns to feeling positive and able to live life to the full once more.


It’s not simply a case of the sunshine making us feel happier; there is an actual science behind why this occurs.


Because the weather is improved, people take more walks, they eat healthier, sleep better and their energy is increased. This is part of something known as the circadian rhythm. We are not as in tune with these rhythms as our ancestors would have been, but it still exists.


Exposure to natural sunlight, allows our bodies to produce hormones and chemicals, which are attributed to our mood balance and energy levels. A reduction in sunlight exposure causes our bodies to fail in the production of these essential chemicals. The two main factors are vitamin D and serotonin both of which are mood-enhancing chemicals.


Symptoms of SAD may vary but traditional they are mainly the same as depression symptoms.  They just occur seasonally instead of irregularly.


Symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder can be any of the following:

  • Lack of energy, lethargy, constant feeling of being tired
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Low Mood
  • Unmotivated
  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia or Sleeping too long
  • Anxiety
  • Not wanting to socialize
  • Low libido


There are a few treatments available to help deal with this difficult time of year.


Light Boxes are special units that simulate natural daylight. They are not the same as sun beds or UV lights.

Dawn simulators – Attach one of these to your alarm clock and it will simulate daylight to create a more natural way to wake up.  This helps the sufferer start the day in the right frame of mind.


Getting into a natural rhythm will greatly help. Don’t stay up late, get up early and take a walk. Get outside as much as you can as this will stimulate the chemicals in your brain and help you absorb as much vitamin D as possible. Try and sit near a window when you are indoors. Eat meals at regularly times each day. Don’t snack or pick at comfort food. Take regular exercise, as this is a well-known treatment for low mood. In general keep colors light around you. Don’t have dark walls and curtains. Have bursts of color in your house to make you feel more positive. Mirrors are another good addition to your home, as they create more light.


The worst things you can do are shut yourself indoors and eat comfort food. Get outside, move, motivate and embrace the winter, before it embraces you.