From SAD to glad, how to beat the winter blues

Today I am writing about Seasonal Affection Disorder (SAD) and how to manage it. SAD (what great acronym!) is a transient depression, typically happening during winter months (there is however summer-onset SAD too) when there is less natural sunlight and shorter daylight hours. Since I have lived in London, I have always struggled with it. Now are the shorter days in the year, the weather is grey, rainy and the temperatures unpleasantly mild. It seems never ending…

SAD facts
The prevalence of SAD varies depending on geographical locations and other factors. It is estimated that up to 10% of the population suffers from SAD, and it is more prevalent in women. It is also more widespread in those who had depression in the past, suffer from mental health disorder or have a family history of SAD. Interestingly, it is more common in people born in Spring and Summer.

SAD symptoms and mechanism
SAD usually manifests as low mood, decreased pleasure and increased irritability, lethargy, tiredness, weight gain…
The physiopathology of SAD is not yet completely clear, hormonal dysregulation and low vitamin D are likely involved.

How to fight SAD?
You can combine various strategies if you suffer from SAD.

  • Light therapy: Daily early morning exposure to bright light really helps with SAD. You can buy these devices online, aim for at least 10,000lux.
  • The alternative, and for me a must, is to spend time outdoors, particularly in the morning. Walk to your bakery or coffee place, sweep the leaves, walk the dog… This naturally increases your exposure to daylight, which is effective even in the cloudiest weather.
  • Interestingly, people suffering from SAD show different dietary habits, such as more snacking and more abundant dinners. However, no nutrition intervention has been proven efficient in managing SAD yet. Radically changing your diet when you are struggling is never a good idea, but if you want to reduce snacking, increase wholegrains and fibre rich food for better satiety, and lean protein for easier digestion.
    Make sure you get enough vitamin D and limit alcohol.
  • Physical activity helps release « good mood » hormones that will help you feel better. Again, no need to be extravagant, a 15-30min yoga or weight session, a brisk walk in the neighbourhood will do the job, even more so if share it with a friend.
  • Social connections is indeed one of the easiest way to increase happiness. So for your own well being, be (selfishly) kind to others 🙂
  • You can try mindfulness and relaxation if you like this sort of things. Personally, it makes me worse.
  • Anything that helps decrease your stress levels will help, as well as having things to look forward to.
  • Last, but absolutely necessary, seek professional help if you feel that SAD has too big an impact on your life.

My dear readers, if you suffer from SAD, soon the days will get longer and the skies brighter. Close your eyes and imagine your dream place. Mine is anywhere by the ocean, on a sunny day… Much love x