31.Jan.2023 About Us | Contact Us | Terms & Conditions

Are you on Facebook? Please join us @ The New Black Magazine

Search Articles


By Jennifer Roche| With thanks to Tesco Health and Wellbeing

Saturday, December 27, 2014.

Do you feel moody and lethargic in winter? Find it hard to get out of bed? If so, you could be a victim of the 'winter blues' or their more acute cousin, Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD for short) affects about 2 million people in the UK and over 12 million people in Northern Europe. For some, it’s a mild condition, but it can be more serious. To help you understand SAD – and beat the winter blues in any case - we looked at Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, causes and what you can do to feel better in winter.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that affects many people, mostly in the winter. Milder forms of SAD are known as the ‘winter blues’ and can affect a person’s mood, energy levels and mental processes. SAD is often seen as a winter condition but it can also happen in reverse with some people feeling the effects in summertime. Let’s look at the symptoms in more detail.

Symptoms of SAD

If you suffer from SAD you are most likely to feel lethargic, depressed and have low-energy levels - these are typical of many other forms of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms can include any or all of the following:

  • Low energy levels
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Decreased concentration
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Loss of libido
  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Craving for carbs and subsequent weight gain


Do you recognise these symptoms in yourself or any other member of your family? If so, it’s quite possible that SAD is the issue. However, as many forms of depression are quite similar, it’s usually a good idea to see your GP to get a proper diagnosis.


Causes of SAD

It’s not known conclusively what causes SAD but it has been linked to lack of natural daylight which can affect our circadian rhythms (or body clock). For those of us in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere (or those in the lower latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere), seeing less daylight in winter and cold, gloomy weather can contribute to the symptoms of SAD. This is thought to be caused by the hormones melatonin and seratonin.

Melatonin is the ‘sleep hormone’ that helps our bodies to sleep and rest at night while seratonin is the opposite, keeping us awake, alert and energetic. In winter, we tend to get up before the sunrise: our bodies are still filled with melatonin, making it difficult for us to ‘rise and shine’. Our modern lifestyles, gloomy weather and short days all mean that we see less daylight and therefore less seratonin is produced, dampening your mood and potentially resulting in SAD.

Did you know?: The further you live from the equator, the more likely you are to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. Countries with high incidences of SAD include: Scandinavia, UK, Ireland, Northern Europe, Northern Asia, Southern parts of Australia and South America.

Beating the winter blues

There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help you beat the winter blues. Eating healthy and exercising regularly can be a great help to improving your mood and helping you to cope with the symptoms. Here are just some of the ways you can help yourself:



Making changes in your diet can help to minimize the effects of SAD. By following a healthy diet, you can reduce the craving for carbs which is one of the typical symptoms of SAD. Eating foods that are rich in serotonin will also help. Here are some small changes you can make:

  • Swap simple carbs for complex carbs. Reduce white bread, potatoes, white rice and pasta and choose brown bread, sweet potatoes, wild or brown rice, wholegrain pasta and legumes. Grains contain Vitamin B which helps with serotonin production.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Energy drinks and tea/coffee can supress the production of serotonin in the body so limit your intake. If you must drink coffee, keep it until the end of your meal.
  • Include oils and fats. Foods like fish, nuts and oils contain essential fatty acids that help with serotonin production. Always eat these foods in moderate amounts and track them in your Food Diary
  • Eat protein foods. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs all contain Tryptophan, which is essential in the production of serotonin.
  • Include dairy products. While not as high as protein, dairy products such as milk and cheese are also good sources of Tryptophan. Cottage cheese and yoghurt are particularly high so if you are watching your weight, these are good low-calorie sources.
  • Eat dark chocolate. A little dark chocolate will go a long way to helping with the symptoms of SAD. It contains Resveratrol, which boosts endorphins and serotonin levels.
  • Include a wide range of fruit and veg. Choosing a brightly-coloured array of fruit and veg will give you all the vitamins and minerals you need for good health as well as helping to combat the effects of SAD. You can track your five-a-day of fruit and veg in your Tally Tracker on the Food Diary to make sure you are getting enough.

Want to ensure you’re keeping these mood-boosting foods in your diet? Use the handy
Food Diary to track your intake.


Exercise is ideal for reducing stress and boosting energy levels. This can go a long way towards combating the symptoms of SAD. Even taking a brisk walk for 15-30 minutes a day, particularly during daylight hours, can be instrumental in minimizing the feelings of anxiety and lethargy. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins and Tryptophan, that essential ingredient in serotonin production. Tryptophan stays in the system long after exercise so by being active for only a short time, you can boost your feel-good levels for hours afterwards.

Make sure to track your exercise in your Fitness Diary!


Use a sunrise alarm clock

These clocks wake you with gradually increasing light, which simulates a natural sunrise. This helps your body to wake naturally, making it easier to greet the day. You can even download a sunrise app to your phone to make waking on a winter’s morning less of an ordeal.



Getting a regular massage can help you to beat the symptoms of SAD and winter blues. Massage is a natural cure for stress and helps to stimulate oxytocin, a hormone which reduces the stress hormone, cortisol and stimulates production of serotonin and the pleasure hormone, dopamine. You may also find aromatherapy massage a help for the uplifting effect of the oils. Always consult a qualified aromatherapist for the best treatment for you.

Track any treatments or mood-boosting activities in your Wellbeing Diary.

Spend time outdoors

Although the weather is not always kind in winter, getting enough daylight is essential. Wrap up well and take a walk during the day whenever you can and track it in your Fitness Diary

Winter sunshine

If you have the time and money, a winter holiday can give you a much-needed boost of sunshine. That said, this is only a temporary fix and some people who have returned to dark, gloomy winter weather have experienced increased symptoms of winter blues and SAD on their return.


Treating acute symptoms of SAD

If you feel you are suffering from more than a dose of the winter blues, you could be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder in its more acute form. If you think you are, it’s a good idea to see your GP to ensure you are not suffering from another illness or form of depression. If you find you are suffering from acute SAD there are treatments that can help. Your GP may prescribe medication but it’s always best to explore other options too. Let’s look at these:

Anti-depressants: If you suffer severely from SAD or have another form of depression in conjunction with SAD, your GP can give you anti-depressants to help. These are not a definitive cure but may help alleviate the symptoms of SAD and boost your mood.

Talking treatment: Therapies like counselling, psychotherapy, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can all help you to face the challenges of SAD with positivity and help you to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. This kind of therapy can help you establish positive behaviours and to recognize and eliminate factors that may contribute to this condition so that you can minimize the effects of SAD in your life.

Light treatment: Using light therapy or a light box is a popular form of treatment for those suffering from SAD. It involves sitting beside a powerful light source that replicates daylight for a number of hours each day. This helps to stimulate production of serotonin.

Get support

While there are many things you can do to help yourself if you suffer from SAD, getting support is important too. Tell your family and friends about this condition and make them aware of it. This way, they can understand and help on the grey days when SAD makes its presence felt. You can also join a support group if you feel the need. Like any other disease or condition, it’s always easier to cope, knowing you have support and are not alone. Check out our links at the bottom of this article for more advice and groups that can help.

Useful sources:



NHS Choices



Seasonal Affective Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

  Send to a friend  |   View/Hide Comments (0)   |     Print

2023 All Rights Reserved: The New Black Magazine | Terms & Conditions
Back to Home Page nb: People and Politics Books & Literature nb: Arts & Media nb: Business & Careers Education