The daylight hours are reduced, the skies are gray and it’s cold outside.

You feel like staying in, you have no energy and feel like sleeping all the time.

Are you feeling sad?  Some people call it the wintertime blues.

Could you possibly have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?




Seasonal affective disorder can occur any time of year. SAD usually occurs during the fall and winter (it’s not the same as the holiday blues). Sometimes it’s called the winter blues. During the fall and winter, we have less daylight hours.  Less daylight hours can change chemicals in the brain, disrupting the body’s internal clock.


You receive some Vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D promotes serotonin activity. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter for the central nervous system and a hormone and is produced mainly in the intestines. When serotonin levels drop, SAD may develop.


Serotonin and dopamine are considered “happy hormones.” Serotonin is associated with happiness, focus and calmness. Dopamine is associated with rewards and motivation giving you feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine also plays a role in controlling concentration, mood and sleep. Oxytocin is another happy hormone that helps us build bonds with other humans.


The pineal gland is an endocrine gland located in the middle of your brain that regulates your body’s circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) by secreting the hormone melatonin. The pineal gland releases greater amounts of melatonin when it is dark, increasing sleepiness and leading to oversleeping during SAD episodes.




Symptoms of SAD can also be the same symptoms of depression.

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue, decreased energy, lack of energy
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Pessimistic
  • Irritable, frustrated
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Changes in sleep or appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

For winter-pattern SAD, additional symptoms can include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Overeating (especially carbohydrates) / weight gain
  • Social withdrawal/hibernating

For summer-pattern SAD, additional symptoms can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poor appetite / weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Violent or aggressive behavior



  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Reach out for help
  • Keep healthy habits
  • Eat healthy snacks and meals
  • Drink water
  • Sleep, but don’t oversleep
  • Enjoy quiet time
  • Reduce alcohol or tobacco use
  • Reduce social media usage
  • Give yourself a break – walk, fresh air, do something you enjoy
  • Listen to or play music
  • Sing (even if you’re bad at it)
  • Art (enjoy looking at it or make it yourself)
  • Read
  • Set reasonable/attainable goals. Determine specifically how you plan to reach your goal. (i.e. weight loss-how much do you want to lose and when do you want to lose it by, what will you do to lose the weight)
  • Change your mindset – Instead of thinking of winter as a time of death, think of winter as a time when the earth is pregnant. Something is happening underneath our feet in the winter, but we don’t see it until the earth is reborn in the spring.
  • Don’t isolate/hibernate (even if you don’t want to be around people, go and sit in an area with people without interacting with them)
  • Essential oils – Oils like bergamot, lemon or sweet orange oil evokes a buoyant, cheerful aroma.
  • Colors – Blue and green are calming colors that counteract stress and anxiety. Yellow and orange encourage joy. Red is a stimulating color that can help with lethargy.
  • Plan different activities to do only during the months you are affected by SAD.
  • Roller skating, ice skating
  • Bowling
  • Concerts, music venues,
  • Movie theaters, theaters
  • Dance class/lessons
  • Arrange activities/vacations for the spring/summer
  • Indoor games/activities/sports
  • Indoor repair projects
  • Indoor reorganization / cleaning out closets / paperwork
  • Keep an activity schedule; Keep active
  • Challenge yourself (if you walked 1,000 steps, walk 2,000 steps)
  • Limit sleep time to 8-9 hours
  • Volunteer – help people, organizations, animals.
  • Exercise – variety is the spice of life ! Exercise releases the feel-good hormones
  • Food – we tend to eat carbs when feeling down; maybe save them for one day
  • Eat foods high in Omega 3
  • Drink more water
  • Eat more berries
  • Walk / Hike / Run in different parks
  • Prayer, meditation
  • Mindfulness – Find joy in little things
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Cooking – try new recipes
  • Indoor gardening
  • Indoor sports




  • Various types of bodywork can make you feel good about your body. Bodywork helps release restrictions and allows more comfortable movement.
  • The vagus nerve (Cranial Nerve X) comes out between the occiput and mastoid process (OM suture). If the vagus nerve is compressed, it can affect the function of your thoracic/abdominal area. Massage can help.
  • People who are feeling low or who are diagnosed with depression have a low vagal tone. Vagus nerve exercises can be helpful.
  • Hum – Humming vibrates the vagus nerve and can help to reset it. The vagus nerve is what takes us from the fight/flight of the sympathetic nervous system to the rest/relax of the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • If the occiput/atlas, the sphenobasilar junction and L5/S1 are compressed (the triad of compression/depression), it can lead to idiopathic endogenous depression. Craniosacral bodywork can help.




Supplements – Vitamin D, melatonin, St. John’s Wort, ashwagandha (check with your doctor to see if these supplements are okay for you to take)




Light box (10,000 lux)




If any of the above-mentioned suggestions are not working, consider consulting a psychotherapist. Perhaps you may be depressed and need an antidepressant medication.


I hope this article gives you a better understanding of seasonal affective disorder, its symptoms and how it can be treated.