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Updated: Jan 29


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than just winter blues; it's a type of depression that corresponds with the change of seasons. Typically starting in late autumn and continuing through winter. The concept of SAD was first formally described and named in the early 1980s by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Rosenthal, who himself experienced depressive symptoms during the winter months after moving from sunny South Africa to the north-eastern United States, was intrigued by this pattern. His seminal research, which included the use of light therapy as a treatment, brought widespread recognition to SAD. Over the years, SAD has gained recognition not only as a legitimate and diagnosable condition but also as a globally relevant one, impacting individuals in various geographical locations, particularly in regions with significant seasonal changes in daylight.

While it’s crucial to seek professional help for any mental health issue, there are natural and spiritual strategies that can complement traditional treatments.

So here’s a guide to understanding and managing SAD using a holistic approach.

Embrace the Light: Natural Light and Light Therapy

Sunlight and Your Space

Maximize your exposure to natural light. Spend time outdoors, especially in the mornings. At home or work, keep your environment bright. Open curtains and situate yourself near windows to let in as much natural light as possible.

Light Boxes: A Bright Idea

Consider using a light box, which mimics outdoor light. About 30 minutes each morning under this artificial light can significantly alleviate symptoms of SAD. You can buy one from Amazon for as little as £20.

Keeping a Routine: The Power of Consistency

Maintaining a regular daily schedule, particularly with sleep patterns, helps regulate your body's internal clock and improve mood. Consistency is key.

Move Your Body: Exercise and Outdoor Activities

Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercises, can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Combine this with outdoor activities to get both exercise and sunlight. Studies have shown walking and being in nature can have a positive effect on mental health issues. Mind, the mental health charity, have an article on just this subject here.

Nutrition Matters: Diet and Vitamin D

A balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins boosts energy and mood. In winter, natural vitamin D levels drop, so consider vitamin D-rich foods or supplements.

Connect and Communicate: The Importance of Socialising

Combat isolation and loneliness by staying connected with friends and family. Social interactions can be a powerful antidote to SAD symptoms.

Professional Guidance: Therapy and Consultation

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) specifically tailored for SAD is effective. Always consult healthcare professionals for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Professional web sites that can support you

SADA is a great UK web site that specialises in supporting those with SAD and has a great list of contacts that can help from the Samaritans to CALM, The Campaign Against Living Miserably. Find the SADA web site here

Spiritual Practices: Nourishing the Soul

Mindfulness and Meditation

Engage in mindfulness and meditation practices. These can help you connect with your inner self, fostering a sense of peace and stability during the tumultuous winter months. You can read a study on how mindfulness changes the brain in patients with depression here.

Nature as a Healer

Spend time in nature. The tranquility and beauty of natural surroundings can be a powerful spiritual experience, helping you feel connected to something greater than yourself and as mentioned above studies have proven it can help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Gratitude Practices

Maintain a gratitude journal. Focusing on the positives in your life can shift your mindset and improve your mood. Even if you only do this through the winter months it can help.

Community and Fellowship

Participate in community, spiritual or religious activities. Being part of a community provides a sense of belonging and support. This can be essential as we are stuck home more in the winter months with less social interaction. Also places like Facebook have SAD support groups with thousands of members, all over the world, helping each other through the darker months. Don't be afraid to ask friends for extra support at this time. If they don't know you are suffering they can't help.

Creative Expression

Embrace creative activities like painting, writing, or music. These can be meditative and spiritually enriching, offering a channel for expressing and understanding emotions. Or even something like knitting or crochet can take your mind off your darker thoughts and put you into a calm state.

Jigsaws have been used successfully to help people with depression. The sense of accomplishment, distraction from negative thoughts and the relaxing effect of doing a puzzle can help those who struggle with depression. If you're looking for a way to boost your mental wellbeing, doing jigsaw puzzles could be a great option.


Managing SAD requires a multifaceted approach. Combining natural and spiritual strategies can provide a comprehensive way to cope with this seasonal disorder. Remember, these methods should complement professional medical advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with SAD, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. You don't have to suffer alone.

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