Blog & Articles


Winter Blues: What Helps and What Doesn’t by Christine Prather, LPCMH

March 23, 2015

Do you tend to get depressed in the winter months, but then rebound after spring? Are you more tired than usual, sluggish, don’t have that pep in your step? Do you feel down or irritable? Do people call you Eeyore?

If so, you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that is triggered by changes in the intensity and duration of natural daylight due to the changing seasons.   In winter-onset SAD, symptoms appear in early winter when the days become shorter and the intensity of light decreases. After spring returns and the sun is stronger and daylight is extended, symptoms recede and energy and mood improve.  Dr. Norman Rosenthal, an original research contributor who formally described and named SAD in 1984, determined that six percent of the US population, primarily in northern climates, is affected by SAD in its most marked form. Another 14 percent of the adult U.S. population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal mood changes, known as winter blues.

If you experience these symptoms of depression, don’t ignore them or wait for them to subside. The sooner you enact a plan to manage them, the better. The good news is that there are ways to decrease and cope with symptoms of SAD. Some recommend taking a vacation to a sunny location during the winter months, but for most people this remedy is not possible. Fortunately there are several practical ways to combat the winter blues. Although psychotherapy and medication have been found to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of SAD, exposure to natural light, exercise, and socialization, can be vital in combating symptoms also.

Studies show that exposure to natural sunlight can brighten our moods by releasing neurotransmitters in the brain. Sunlight also allows our bodies to make Vitamin D which is necessary for brain function and mental health. It has been shown to affect mood and alleviate depression. Increase your exposure to natural light as much as possible in the morning and afternoon hours. Sit next to windows, open the blinds, and make sure you spend a little time outdoors each day. You can also use a light box or full spectrum light bulbs inside your home or office to imitate natural light. Exercise also helps to improve mood and energy levels. Studies show that it’s beneficial to walk while in daylight for one hour per day. So bundle up, get out of the house and take a brisk walk outside. This way you get two for the price of one.

Last but not least, spend time with God and others. Socialize. Don’t isolate yourself from others or spend too much time in front of the TV or computer. Plan a short trip, visit a friend, or help out and volunteer. Soak in the Word of God, pray and cast your cares on Him. I Peter 5:7 says to cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.


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