Why So SAD? Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder


Winter is well underway here in Australia, leading to shorter days, colder weather, and more time spent in the dark. Some people welcome the decreasing temperature that allows for more layers, but for many the wintertime can bring along seasonal depression.


Wintertime Blues

One of the most accurate acronyms to exist is that of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) because many people experiencing this disorder do, in fact, feel sad. This disorder has many names, including seasonal depression, winter depression, or winter-pattern SAD. Whatever the name, the meaning is the same; when the temperatures dip and days get shorter, people can start to experience depression.


SAD is a common form of depression that results primarily from reduced levels of sunlight. When the days get shorter in the winter, your circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels can be thrown off, impacting both your sleep and mood.  


Signs of SAD

SAD is not a separate type of depression, but instead depression that occurs in time with the seasons, usually beginning in late fall and early winter and lasting until spring or summer. Because of this, the symptoms of SAD are the same as major depression.


Symptoms of major depression include:

  • losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • feeling depressed most of the day, for most days
  • feeling agitated
  • feeling sluggish
  • lacking energy
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling worthless or hopeless
  • having frequent thoughts of death or suicide


Winter-pattern SAD has the additional symptoms of:

  • overeating
  • weight gain
  • oversleeping
  • social withdrawal


Treating SAD

The same treatments that are effective for depression, including medication, psychotherapy, and light therapy, can also help many with SAD. However, there are also actions you can take at home to help with symptoms of SAD and keep this seasonal depression at bay.


Use a Dawn Simulator

One of the most challenging aspects of winter, especially for those with set schedules, is waking up in the dark. Using a sunlight alarm clock or dawn simulator allows you to wake up with gradual light that mimics a sunrise. A study even found that dawn simulators are just as effective as light therapy for those with SAD, so give this alarm clock a try.


Stay Social

Those with SAD often want to retreat into their house and “hibernate,” but this only feeds into their depressive symptoms. To help combat SAD, prioritize social activities and fill the winter months with enjoyable activities.


Get Some Vitamin D

Research has found that many people with depression have low levels of vitamin D. However, when the days become longer and the weather becomes colder, it can be hard to get outside and soak in some Vitamin D, which the body can produce from sunshine.


There are some foods with vitamin D, including fish, dairy, and eggs, but they are not high sources. Because of this, vitamin D supplements are an excellent way to ensure you get enough of this natural vitamin in the winter months.


Fighting SAD

The winter months may result in a decline in mental health as depressive symptoms appear, but implementing the above tips can help you combat SAD, allowing you to enjoy the chilly season. If your symptoms are severe or the above are not helping, be sure to talk to a doctor for a professional form of treatment.



Danilenko, K., & Ivanova, I. (2015). Dawn simulation vs. bright light in seasonal affective disorder: Treatment effects and subjective preference. Journal Of Affective Disorders, 180, 87-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.03.055


Elmer, T., & Stadtfeld, C. (2020). Depressive symptoms are associated with social isolation in face-to-face interaction networks. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58297-9


Wong, S., Chin, K., & Ima-Nirwana, S. (2018). Vitamin D and Depression: The Evidence from an Indirect Clue to Treatment Strategy. Current Drug Targets, 19(8), 888-897. doi: 10.2174/1389450118666170913161030


Foods high in vitamin D. (2022). Retrieved 5 June 2022, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-vitamin-d


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2022). Retrieved 6 June 2022, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/seasonal-affective-disorder

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